Cambodia has signed a new agreement to protect its domestic helpers in Malaysia. However, labour rights groups said they had not been consulted about the deal that targets maids’ rights and the details had not been made public.
Cambodia’s Labour Ministry made no announcement about the agreement, although the signing ceremony was reportedly witnessed by its minister Ith Sam Heng.
Sending domestic helpers to Malaysia was banned in 2011 after migrants reported shocking abuse and the recruitment of children.
In Malaysia the new deal was seen as a positive development to overcome a maid shortage and excessive fees imposed by agencies.
In 2015, a memorandum of understanding was signed with Malaysia that supposedly provided employee protection, but Cambodian labour groups said the process was kept secret and the agreement had never been made public.
Cambodian Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training director-general Seng Sakda promised that Muslim employers would not have a problem with employees from Cambodia and that religion would not be an issue.
“In Cambodia, we have Buddhists and Muslims too. We will supply them according to demand,” he told a press conference in Malaysia.
He said Cambodia had not set any migrant limit.
Malaysian Association of Foreign Maid Agencies president Jeffrey Foo said under this week’s deal each helper must have a bank account opened in their name, receive a smartphone and access to a counselling hotline.
There would also be a monthly tracking report on salary payment, he said.
“This marks a milestone for the industry. This time [the association] is taking it up a notch and doing more than what we conventionally do to ensure Malaysian employers’ image is not tarnished and described as ‘horrible’,” Foo said.
The authorities would also be required to monitor whether workers were being paid, he added.
“We hope they will understand their protections and hope many Cambodian domestic workers will take up the offer to come to Malaysia to work,” he said.
Foo said his association wanted to bring in up to 20,000 Cambodian maids a year, starting with about 300 by March 2018.
But Chan Sokunthea, who monitors the rights of women and children rights in Cambodia for the organisation Adhoc, told the Phnom Penh Post that the government should have consulted Cambodia and Malaysia NGOs.
Cambodian poverty drives young people to migrate. Picture credit: Pixabay