The Labour Ministry is considering an agreement that would send Cambodian workers to Lebanon, causing one labour rights official to voice his concern about the plan.
Minister of Labour Ith Samheng said yesterday after meeting with a working group from Lebanon that it was a good opportunity to open a wider job market for Cambodian people, especially youths interested in working in Lebanon.
“Today, a Lebanese working group came to meet us to ask for advice on how to push this work forward,” he said.
“I told them that we must first have a memorandum of understanding between both countries before we continue to the next step.”
He said it would be a great opportunity if there was cooperation with Lebanon because it is a developed country and following success there, the ministry could expand to neighbouring countries.
“The MoU depends on the speed of our working group,” Mr Samheng said, adding that Cambodians could work in the industry and service sectors, and also as maids.
He mentioned that Cambodia had never sent workers to Lebanon.
“This is a way that the government finds jobs for our people overseas,” he said. “We also open job markets abroad for our citizens who are interested because they can get higher wages and learn new skills.”
The minister said Cambodia has agreements with Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Dy Thehoya, a programme officer at labour rights group Central, said yesterday he was not aware if Cambodia had an embassy in Lebanon, and expressed concern about potential cooperation with the Middle Eastern country.
“I think they should consider carefully before sending our workers to Lebanon, whether we have an embassy or not. We have had many lessons from our workers who were abused, raped, trafficked, and so on,” he said.
Mr Thehoya noted the distance between both countries as well as the difference in cultures, saying the Cambodian government needed to create a protection system for workers.
“A protection system is very important. We must have a committee to follow up and check the safety of our workers,” he said. “We are very worried about our workers because it’s really risky for them.”
He also questioned whether the Cambodian government was really able to assure worker safety.