Kan Sichan was desperate to work in Japan, so much so that she borrowed $400 to pay a recruitment agency to send her there. But, months later, her dream still hasn’t materialised.
Sichan is one of 201 people that have filed a complaint with local rights group Adhoc in recent months over lost money paid to recruitment firms, including Rice Natural, which had promised well-paid jobs in agriculture and construction.
Many sold land and properties to afford the fee, while others took out high-interest loans.
Sichan, aged 28, said she was expecting to start work last month.
She said she wanted to pay for Rice Natural’s services, “because I know other workers who have been working in Japan through this company for two years and it’s well paid”.
But when she went to visit the agency’s office in Kampong Chhnang province in February, there was no longer any company logo on the building, and it seemed no one was there.
“Now, we have nothing; no job or money, and we have also paid for travel to Phnom Penh to seek compensation from the company responsible. Life is more difficult now,” she said.
At a press conference at Adhoc’s offices in Phnom Penh yesterday, others echoed Sichan’s complaints.
“I once went to Japan for a week and saw how progressive their country is. I heard about the recruitment firm, so I applied for a job; I didn’t think I would be cheated,” said 28-year-old Vay Thareach.
On April 10, Labour Minister Ith Sam Heng wrote a letter to Rice Natural after receiving complaints from 282 workers between February and April.
In the letter, the minister ordered the company to suspend recruitment for 45 days until a deal was reached with the workers.
But according to Adhoc, “to this day there has been neither an agreement reached nor have the migrant workers been paid back their money”.
Adhoc yesterday urged the Ministry of Labour to force recruitment agencies to pay victims, “without delay”, and for arrest warrants to be issued against those who have committed fraud.
A representative of the Labour Ministry could not be reached for comment.