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Workers hoping for jobs in Japan accuse agency of scam

Labour Minister Ith Sam Heng (right, centre) and Japanese officials discuss deals to increase the number of Cambodian trainee workers in Japan in July 2017.
Labour Minister Ith Sam Heng (right, centre) and Japanese officials discuss deals to increase the number of Cambodian trainee workers in Japan in July 2017. Photo supplied

Workers hoping for jobs in Japan accuse agency of scam

Eleven workers who hoped to find jobs in Japan claim they were defrauded by a recruiting agency after paying thousands of dollars each nearly two years ago.

The troubled agency – APTSE & C (Cambodia) Resources Co Ltd – has been the subject of numerous allegations of abuse and fraud over the years, including one case in which a teenage maid died.

Sok Sonika, 24, said she paid the firm $2,500 and went through six months of training last year under an agreement that the company would repay her if they could not arrange work by October 2016.
However, when that time came, the company only returned $400, she said.

“Until now, we are still waiting to get the $2,100 back,” Sonika said, adding that her family borrowed the money from a microfinance institution and is now facing steep interest rates.

Workers say they filed a complaint with the Ministry of Labour last month. Soa Meng Leang, 23, who also claims she was defrauded, said a ministry representative told them recently that negotiations with the company “didn’t work out”.

“I have no plans to work in Japan anymore, despite advertisements that say we could earn a lot of money,” Meng Leang said. “I’m scared about it now.”

A man who identified himself as an agency representative, but declined to give his name, denied the workers’ claims.

“If anyone claims that company cheated them, or lied to them, we need the document and their name to make sure that they applied to our company,” he said.

The Ministry of Labour vowed to investigate APTSE & C two years ago, after 36 migrant workers said the agency defrauded them of hundreds of dollars each.

The complaint is one of at least seven since 2010, when two Cambodian maids accused the company of ignoring their pleas for help after their employers allegedly subjected them to slave-like conditions, including beatings and starvation.

Two years later, 80 workers accused the company of withholding their passports and docking nearly all their earnings for visa fees, leading them to be arrested and beaten by Thai police.

However, when asked yesterday, ministry spokesman Heng Sour said he was not familiar with APTSE & C.

“Up until now we have not received any complaints [about this case], and if we get complaints we go resolve the complaints immediately,” Sour said.

The company, which is registered to Meas Makara and Seng Setthychey, is one of 48 recruiting firms approved to send migrant workers to Malaysia, according to a list released by the ministry last month.

Updated: Thursday, 14 December 2017, 7:20am

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