PETALING JAYA: Cambodia’s labour ministry is about to finalise details for a plan to resume sending maids to Malaysia, The Cambodia Daily reported today.
Officials from the ministry told the daily that the plan could be approved by both countries within the next three weeks, about a year after a memorandum of understanding had been signed to lift a five-year ban that had been imposed by the Cambodian government.
Cambodia had banned the movement of its citizens as maids to Malaysia after negative reports had emerged over the ill-treatment of their maids by Malaysian employees and agents, including physical and sexual abuse, poor meals, forced overtime, and unpaid wages.
The key provisions included in the new plan to allow the legal migration of Cambodian maids to Malaysia are better protection for the maids.
The plan, which had been signed in December 2015 and was originally expected to be ironed out in a matter of months, is to take effect by the end of the year, ministry spokesman Heng Sour told The Cambodia Daily without furnishing any further details.
Another official, Chuop Narath, who is the deputy director of the ministry’s labor department, said negotiators from Cambodia and Malaysia were in the final stages of finalising the operating procedures.
“We’re almost finished. We just need the green light from both leaders,” he said referring to Prime Minister Najib Razak and his counterpart Hun Sen, who had made the order to impose the five-year ban in 2011.
Cambodian NGOs are against the move to resume the movement of maids, saying that their labour ministry officials allegedly have vested interests in recruitment agencies sending maids overseas.
As such, these labour rights groups doubt the necessary protection will be given to maids nor will the Cambodian authorities enforce it with their Malaysian counterparts.
One group, NGO Central, told the daily that the Cambodian embassy in Kuala Lumpur had continued renewing passports of maids who were already in Malaysia prior to 2011.
“So, there are a lot of missing maids until now,” Moeun Tola, who runs NGO Central, was quoted as saying.
According to the NGOs, many Cambodian women have been entering Malaysia on tourist visas over the past five years. Some of them were then detained and placed in detention centres.
It was reported in August that two Cambodian women who had breached the ban were released from the Juru detention depot in Penang and upon their return home, had alleged that the depot staff had tortured detainees.
One of them claimed she knew of at least three detainees who shared the same block with her dying of injuries from beatings.
It was reported that the Cambodian Embassy in Malaysia had investigated the allegations.
According to The Cambodia Daily, the Malaysian government later confirmed one Cambodian woman had died at the center because of an unspecified illness but had denied the abuse allegations.