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Women say they fled detention

Women say they fled detention

Siem Reap province
TWO women in Siem Reap province said yesterday that they fled a labour training agency in Phnom Penh last month because they could not put up with the cramped conditions in which they were forced to live.

Ngoun Re said she and other women were locked in the Phnom Penh training facility run by T&P Company and not allowed to leave. In mid-August, she said, she climbed over a 4-metre high fence to escape.

“When I fled I did not have anything with me but 1,000 riels (US$0.25),” she said in an interview yesterday. She claimed a passerby picked her up near the Cambodian-Japanese Friendship Bridge.

Ngoun Re said she had been promised a well-paying job in Malaysia after her training, but that she grew disillusioned when the company insisted on locking the trainees behind two fences.

“I am disappointed with myself because I was cheated by a broker and I made difficulty for my parents,” she said.

“I can honestly tell you that if the conditions were as good as they claim, I would not have escaped.”

Trainee Kim Sinoun said she left the facility with five other women by climbing through a wall in the washroom and then climbing over a fence.

“I thought that if it was so difficult like this in our own country, where we are Khmer and speak one language, then how difficult would it be in Malaysia,” she said in an interview at her home in Kampong Khlaing commune.

Phan Kot said T&P employs him as a broker in Siem Reap, where he recruits new trainees. He said the company gave Kim Sinoun’s family 200,000 riels (US$47), 150 kilograms of rice and a mobile phone when she started her training.

“I think the company is worried they will lose workers because the company has signed a guarantee with their parents,” he said.

Now the company has asked him to convince Kim Sinoun to sign a contract agreeing to pay 700,000 riels (US$165) in compensation to the company, he said.

Kim Sinoun has refused to sign.
T&P Executive Director Phatt Sam Ol declined to answer questions related to the case, saying that he needed to discuss the situation with Labour Ministry officials first.

But Huy Pichsovann, a programme officer with the Community Legal Education Centre, which is investigating similar allegations of forced detention by labour firms, said such claims were becoming more common.

“We are collecting information and after that we will send it to the Ministry of Labour and issue a statement urging officials to improve working conditions,” he said.

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