Rights group Adhoc on Tuesday urged the government to work harder to help Cambodian domestic workers still suffering abuse from their employers in Malaysia or from the Cambodian recruitment agencies that sent them there, including 63 women the organization says have effectively disappeared.
At a press conference in Phnom Penh, Adhoc said 122 women in Malaysia were either missing, unreachable by relatives, working under forced contract extensions, or had unresolved claims of unpaid wages or physical abuse— even as the government prepares to send more.
Prime Minister Hun Sen put an indefinite hold on sending domestic workers to Malaysia in 2011 in response to increasing reports of such abuse. Labor Ministry officials are in negotiations with Malaysia over a memorandum of understanding that would lift the freeze.
On Tuesday, Adhoc president Thun Saray said the Cambodian government was not doing enough to help the women it has already sent.
“We have intervened for the families with the [recruitment] companies and the relevant ministries, especially the Ministry of Labor, to find the missing people, but they have not replied,” he said. “The government should work and cooperate with Malaysian authorities to search for and find these people because they are not animals, they are humans.”
But Mr. Saray said the government also had to do more to monitor and hold accountable the recruitment agencies in Cambodia that have put domestic workers in harm’s way or failed to secure their full wages.
“Our government has announced that it has suspended the export of migrant [domestic] workers to Malaysia, but they don’t act to monitor the [recruitment] companies,” he said. “This is a big mistake and lets the companies force the workers to keep working in Malaysia.”