More Cambodian maids repatriated from Malaysia after ban lifted
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 23 ― The number of Cambodian maids repatriated from Malaysia has more than tripled since Cambodia lifted a ban on sending its citizens to work as domestic helpers here, The Phnom Penh Post reported.
The paper, quoting official data obtained from the Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said its embassy in Malaysia had intervened to repatriate 198 Cambodian citizens in 2016, compared to just one fourth of that last year, and just 34 in 2014.
Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Chum Sounry was quoted saying most of those repatriated this year were domestic workers, many of whom had sought out the embassy for help due to “difficulties in their work”.
“They said the work is very difficult for them because of the conditions,” he said.
A spokesman from Cambodia’s Labour Ministry spokesman Heng Sour did not respond to requests for comment yesterday, but the paper noted that Heng Sour had defended the lift of the ban, saying it would make it easier to assist abused workers and provide them legal recourse.
The Cambodian and Malaysian government signed a new memorandum of understanding in December last year, lifting the ban imposed in 2011 in the wake of reports of severe abuses, including deaths.
News about the increase in repatriation of Cambodian citizens was met with immediate criticism by a local prominent labour rights group, NGO Sentral.
The outfit’s head, Moeun Tola, said the spike in rescues are a clear indication that the ban should never have been lifted.
“The fact that the number of rescued maids has increased is showing that the issue of…the abuse of the maids still exists,” he was quoted as saying.
Despite the pledge to ensure better protection of its domestic helpers after the new MoU was signed, complaints of abuse persist, the group’s chief added.
The complaints include claims of 20-hour work days, starvation, verbal assault and physical violence.
“Rape is still happening, torture is still happening, and they are not allowed to be connected with their families,” Tola was quoted saying.
Domestic helpers’ complaints of being abused by their employers are rife in Malaysia as well as Singapore.
Just yesterday, police remanded a woman for seven days in connection to the violent abuse of a 19-year-old Indonesian maid, who was found bleeding and unconscious beside a drain in Mutiara Damansara on Wednesday.
The case is being investigated under Section 326 of the Penal Code for causing grievous injury, which carries a maximum jail term of 20 years and fine or whipping, if convicted.