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Maids Repatriated from Malaysia

Mom Kunthear / Khmer Times Share:
Five of 18 maids who were jailed in Malaysia arrive at Phnom Penh International Airport last night. KT/ Mai Vireak

Five Cambodian workers imprisoned in a Malaysian jail were repatriated yesterday, with 13 more expected to make their way back to the Kingdom in the coming days.
All 18 were jailed for allegedly lacking the proper work permits and all had been brought to Malaysia by informal brokers, many of whom abandoned them once they arrived.
The workers were being held in prison in Bukit Jalil, a suburb of Kuala Lumpur, and the Foreign Ministry asked the Cambodian ambassador to Malaysia to secure their release once they were notified of their arrest and detention.  
“After the intervention of the embassy, Malaysian authorities agreed to release 18 Cambodian people from the prison in Bukit Jalil, but only five people were sent back to the country on Wednesday while the other 13 people will be sent back later,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Chum Sounry.
The International Organization for Migration helped cover the costs of the plane tickets for the workers and facilitated their release to the embassy.
The five workers who returned yesterday – Sales Sokry, 36, Him Saryphors, 36, Mat Yakob, 32, Mat Savy, 32, and Sen Song, 20 – all came from Tboung Khmum province and told similar tales of being swindled by brokers who promised them high-paying jobs in Malaysia.
One of the workers, who asked not to be named, told Khmer Times at the airport yesterday that a broker said he could find him a job in Malaysia. The broker told him to wait in Kuala Lumpur, until he arrived, but for more than seven months the man lived without a job. He was eventually picked up by Malaysian police for having overstayed his visa.  
“The boss who assured me that he could get me a job told me to wait for him in Malaysia before he went,” he said. “Police arrested me, but they didn’t attack me.”
Another worker said she was unsure of exactly why Malaysian authorities had arrested her, as she had all the documents needed to work and live in the country.  
“I had the right documents, but they still arrested me. I lived there for more than six months, but worked for only three months before I was arrested and detained,” she said.
She said a broker helped get her to Malaysia and secured the correct visa for her, but she was forced to find a job herself.
The situation comes on the heels of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by Cambodia and Malaysia on this specific issue, revealing the massive gulf in enforcement on the issue of maids working abroad and informal brokers taking them out of the country.
The Association of Cambodian Recruitment Agencies signed an MoU with the Malaysia National Association of Employment Agencies on May 30.
Labor Minister Ith Samheng said it was essential that the “safety and security” of Cambodian maids was ensured and that the
MoU would curb the rate of illegal trafficking and migration in the so called “maid trade.”
“The MoU shows the roles and responsibilities in ensuring the benefits of protection, health and safety of workers and maids from the beginning of recruitment, training, transmission and management till repatriation,” he said.
Mr. Samheng added that the recruitment agencies of the two countries must work together to provide the necessary services to save and protect Cambodian maids.
The Cambodian embassy in Kuala Lumpur has intervened in a string of cases of Cambodian women being lured into jobs in Malaysia, with many ending up working as domestic slaves.
Ung Seang Rithy, the president of the Ung Rithy Group, said at the MoU signing ceremony in May that Cambodian and Malaysian agencies will work together to ensure transparency and job security for Cambodian workers to avoid abuse, but its efforts must be backed up with the cooperation of relevant institutions, especially the Cambodian embassy in Malaysia.
More than 600,000 Cambodians are working in other countries, including Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Japan and Korea, each signing respective MoUs with Cambodia to allow migrants to seek work there.

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