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Saudi maid scandal widens

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Mr Yahya, centre. KT/Chor Sokunthea

A former secretary of state accused of illegally sending a migrant worker to Saudi Arabia has been accused of doing so again by his counterpart at the Labour Ministry with whom he has feuded in the past.

Labour Ministry secretary of state Datuk Othsman Hassan said he had found another migrant worker stranded in Saudi Arabia after being sent there by former Social Affairs Ministry secretary of state Ahmad Yahya, who lost his position on Tuesday amid allegations he was linked to a similar case.

The new case follows the high profile return of Math Sanas, 28, who was rescued after pleading for help in a viral Facebook video, in which she said she had been working without pay for 12 years.

Mr Hassan picked her up from the airport after her repatriation, after which Mr Yahya lost his position at the Social Affairs Ministry as it was revealed he was behind the recruitment of Ms Sanas.

Mr Hassan said yesterday that he has identified another migrant worker, Eng Pov from Tbong Khum province, who has been stranded in the Saudi Arabia after being sent there to work by Mr Yahya’s company The Accent Group.

“Her case is very similar to that of Ms Sanas,” said Mr Hassan, noting Ms Pov was also working as a maid. “They were both sent there by the same company.”

Mr Hassan added that he is working on Ms Pov’s repatriation and actively seeking other victims stranded in the country.

Ms Sanas said upon her return that her employer tore up her passport, did not pay her and forbid her from talking to anyone outside the home in which she worked as a maid.

Mr Yahya was sacked by royal decree on Tuesday amid allegations he was linked to Ms Sanas’ case.

He could not be reached for comment yesterday.

In August last year, Phnom Penh Municipal Court found Mr Yahya guilty of defaming Mr Hassan.

The court ordered Mr Yahya to pay 100 million riel compensation ($25,000) to Mr Hassan, who had sought $1 million from him. Mr Yahya was also ordered to pay a fine of 5 million riel ($1,200) to the state.

Mr Yahya, who defected to the ruling party from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party in 2008, said after his sacking on Tuesday that he was expecting to be removed from his position soon because he was approaching retirement age.

When asked if his dismissal was linked to the dispute with Mr Hassan, Mr Yahya said he did not know, but added: “Othsman Hassan is my enemy.”

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