Cambodia will send about 5,000 workers to Kuwait for the first time in 2019, Minister of Labour Ith Samheng said on Wednesday.
After meeting with his counterpart Hind Al-Sabeeh at the ministry, Mr Samheng said that there are many sectors migrant workers can fill in Kuwait.
“After discussions, both parties agreed that in 2019 we will push our cooperation in this work and Cambodia will prepare 5,000 workers to complete conditions to work in Kuwait,” he said.
Mr Samheng said if there are good working conditions and high wages, Cambodia will send more workers in the coming years, noting that workers have to be able to speak both English and Arabic in order to qualify for jobs in Kuwait.
Dy Thehoya, a programme officer at labour rights group Central, expressed concern over the government’s plan to send workers to Kuwait.
“We know from our experience that unlike Japan and South Korea which have policies respecting human rights and labour laws, countries in the Middle East such as Kuwait do not have mechanisms to protect worker’s rights,” he said.
Mr Thehoya also said that Kuwait is very far from Cambodia, making it difficult for the government to intervene and help workers if they encounter problems.
He added that when selecting and training workers to send to Kuwait the government must ensure that they know what their contract is so that they will not be cheated.
Mr Thehoya noted that Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India have sent workers to Qatar and they were to be paid $800 to $1,000 per month but these workers were paid less and had to live in overcrowded accommodations.
“We are not raising these concerns to obstruct the government’s initiative to find jobs for people,” Mr Thehoya noted. “We just want the government to consider these concerns before sending workers to foreign countries.”
According to a report from the Labour Ministry, Cambodia sent 96,338 labourers to work abroad in 2017, an increase of 12.6 percent over the 85,576 workers in 2016.
Mr Samheng said in March that about 1.2 million Cambodians work overseas each year, sending nearly $2 billion in remittances every year to their families in Cambodia.