A campaign to legalise Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand could be repeated in Malaysia if it proves successful, the Labour Minister has said.
Ith Samheng announced on Tuesday that the government will send 360 officials to Thailand to implement a 100-day campaign to give illegal migrant workers proper documents.
The campaign will run from September 15 to December 15, before the Thai government enacts new labour laws in 2018.
If the Thailand initiative is successful, Mr Samheng said the government will consider doing the same for illegal workers in Malaysia, where he said many people are cheated into working without documents by unscrupulous brokers.
“After the campaign in Thailand, our next step will be Malaysia, where there are also many illegal workers,” he said.
According to a Labour Ministry report published yesterday, there are 30,000 legal and illegal Cambodian workers in Malaysia earning about $300 dollars per month.
Since June, Malaysia has deported 30 illegal workers.
Dy Thehoya, a programme officer at the labour rights group Central, welcomed the potential assistance for workers in Malaysia.
“Some go to Malaysia as legal workers at first but change employers and become illegal,” he said. “It would be good if the government takes care of them.”
According to the ministry report, 450 workers were repatriated from abroad in the first six months of 2017, of which 134 came from Malaysia.
Cambodia banned sending domestic workers to Malaysia in 2011 after reports of severe abuse in the country, including the deaths of three women.
However on May 12, both countries officially reversed the ban, despite Cambodian women continuing to be repatriated from Malaysia due to overwork and employers withholding their salaries.