Category Archives: Cambodia

[Cambodia] Kingdom ranked best for workers in South Korea

Cambodia was ranked best among 16 countries that have sent migrant workers to South Korea. This was revealed in an annual assessment by the latter’s Human Resource Development Unit (HRD Korea) under the Ministry of Employment and Labour.

The ranking was announced during the 2019 Employment Permit System (EPS) conference, which was held in Seoul and attended by representatives from the 16 countries.

Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training spokesman Heng Sour expressed strong hope that the ranking will help boost the Kingdom’s quotas for sending workers to South Korea, which currently stand at some 54,000.

HRD Korea, he said, ranked Cambodia on eight aspects including its procedures for sending workers on short-term contracts, workers’ living standards during employment and the low number of illegal migrant workers.

Citing its assessment, he said Cambodia has the best Korean language testing centres that offer computerised tests. The number of Cambodian workers who succeed in life upon their return is also higher compared to those from other countries.

“While many countries are also sending their workers to Korea, Cambodia fares better than all of them. It is a factor that should help the Kingdom receive an increase of quotas for sending workers to that country,” he said.

The ministry said that after signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with South Korea in 2017, Cambodia had sent more than 54,300 workers there. Most of them worked in the industrial sector and receive average wages of between $1,200 and $1,700 per month.

For this year, the South Korean government has imposed a quota of 4,400 workers. Sour said the new quota was expected to be announced early next year.

“Although some Cambodian migrant workers worked there illegally and have been deported to the Kingdom, we are still faring better than the other countries that also sent workers there,” he said.

Chhoeurn Somphors, a migrant worker in Korea, said working conditions there was better than in other countries, though some workers still faced medical problems and were abused by their bosses.

“Generally, if you work for a good boss at a good place, the salary is high and working

conditions are good. But some workers are also exploited by bad employers and forced to work overtime.

“As far as procedures are concerned, before I came to Korea, I had to spend as much as $4,000,” she said without elaborating.

Khun Tharo, the programme coordinator at the Centre for Alliance of Labour and Human Rights (Central), said there are generally fewer irregularities in sending migrant workers to South Korea compared to other countries.

While applauding the ranking, he called on the government to lay out measures to protect workers and ensure they receive good employment upon returning to the Kingdom.

“Their vocational skills acquired in South Korea should be recognised upon their return. They can be assisted to integrate into the job market in Cambodia.

“This is important because, in the future, we cannot serve as a worker-sending country or sell manpower anymore. We must develop our human resources locally and create more jobs,” he said.

Written by Long Kimmarita

Source: Phnom Penh Post

Published on 10 September 2019

Link: https://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/kingdom-ranked-best-workers-south-korea

Rural Kampong Cham Residents Finding Better Paying Jobs – In Japan

BEK PEANG VILLAGE, Kampong Cham province – Chea Sokunthea and Dorn Sreyneang were excited in August at the prospect of travelling abroad – their first time outside of Cambodia. The cousins joined the more than 1.2 million Cambodians living overseas as migrant workers, most of whom left the country for better economic prospects.

Having grown up in a village with little resources or job prospects, the two left for Japan on August 23 to work at an egg processing factory and vegetable farm, respectively.

“I feel excited because I never expected having a chance to go there,” said the 22-year-old Chea Sokunthea, at her home in the central lowlands of the Mekong River.

While Chea Sokunthea will have to stand all day sorting and packaging eggs, Dorn Sreyneang will use farm machinery to grow potatoes and radishes. But it will be better than working at the garment factory, they told VOA Khmer.

The two jobs have their own challenges, they admit, including being away from their home, but these are outweighed by the financial benefits it will bring their families.

The two of them made around $200 a month each – a little higher than $182 minimum wage – at a garment factory and were able to save not more than $50 a month.

However, with a salary of around $1,200 a month in Japan, Chea Sokunthea said she can save at least $500 to send back to Cambodia. Her accommodation and living expenses are covered by the employer, giving her an opportunity to save approximately half of her salary.

“I can earn more money than in Cambodia,” Chea Sokunthea said. “That is why I want to go there and earn money for my parents at home.”

Better income

The cousins join the growing number of Cambodians who have left the country to find better job opportunities. Despite Cambodia’s consistent, official growth rate in recent years of around 7 percent, the benefits of this development have not reached most Cambodians, especially in rural areas, nor have they created enough new and better paying jobs.

While numbers vary for the exact number of migrant workers overseas, the Cambodian Labor Ministry in 2018 reported that around 1.23 million Cambodians worked abroad. The neighboring country of Thailand was the premier destination for migrant workers, totaling more than 90 percent or 1.14 million workers.

South Korea accounted for around 49,000 workers, followed by Malaysia with 30,000 workers, and Japan having around 9,000 workers. Other migrant destinations include Singapore, Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia.

The business of sending Cambodian workers overseas is fraught with risks, such as trafficking, substandard working conditions and recruitment agencies defrauding prospective workers. However, for Cambodian workers, the financial benefits are worth the risks.

“I want to work overtime more and more so that I can earn more money,” said Chea Sokunthea. “I go for earning money, so I need to work hard.”

Her cousin, Dorn Sreyneang, who also worked as garment worker, echoed the same thoughts as her cousin. She expected to earn more money than at her job in the garment factory, but a lot of that money would go towards repaying the microfinance loan Sok Savorn, her father, borrowed to pay a recruitment agency – the princely sum of $3,500.

For that money, the cousins were trained for nine months in language skills and work-related tasks. They said they were asked to perform tests, such as lifting a 15-kilogram piece of metal and sorting gains of rice with chopsticks to test their patience.

Chea Sokunthea’s father, Thuy Dy, also took a loan of $2,000 from a microfinance institution and smaller loans from relatives to pay for his daughter’s training and travel costs.

With their families taking on additional debt, the cousins will have to remit money to help repay the loans – a common occurrence for overseas workers, who remitted $1.4 billion back home last year.

A 2016 International Organization for Migration report stated that apart from the lack of jobs, a significant majority of Cambodian migrant workers migrated within or outside the country because of indebtedness. And the opportunity to work overseas only adds to that debt burden.

For both fathers, the borrowed sums are large, but they feel it will pay off in the long run.

“Everyone who works there [in Japan] has better living conditions now and there is not any problem,” said Sok Savorn, who is a soldier and runs a small grocery story in the village

Direct from Bek Peang to Japan

Chea Sokunthea and Dorn Sreyneang are not the first to leave their village for Japan. The two fathers, while initially skeptical of their daughters travelling to Japan for work, had many of their concerns allayed by neighbors in the same village.

Long Voeun, a farmer and mother of 11 children, said two of her daughters were working in Japan on vegetable and fruit farms. Having to also take a loan of around $5,000, Long Voeun was pleased that her family had paid off the debt and her husband, Suon Phoeun, said the family was finally able to save money every month.

“Before, if we are sick at night, we needed to borrow money from others. But now we have money for medical treatment,” he said.

Bek Peang village chief, Chin Ly, said a number of villagers, mostly young men and women, had worked in Japan or South Korea, substantially improving the financial situations of their families.

Seng Nory, a 58-year-old resident of the village, first sent two of her daughters to work at a vegetable farm in Japan. With the improving financial prospects, two other children are now keen to work in Japan when they finish school.

“I don’t force them, but they want to go by themselves,” said Seng Nory, a farmer and mother of six children, recently told reporters. “They say after they finish school, they will go [to work in Japan].”

Recruitment fraud and labor abuses persist

The residents of Bek Peang village recount to reporters the best of overseas migration. But the practice has seen a large number of cases of trafficking and fraud globally and in Cambodia. Reports suggest workers in Thailand are informal and unregistered making them vulnerable to workplace abuses.

Domestic help have been trained and sent to Malaysia over the years, with a number of cases emerging of alleged torture and hostile work environments, requiring rights groups to intervene and help repatriate these workers back to Cambodia.

Even Japan, which has instituted higher technical requirements to ensure labor-friendly migration, has seen cases of alleged fraud. The Phnom Penh Post reported in December 2017 that 11 workers alleged fraud by a recruitment agency they had paid to find them a job in Japan.

Chhim Sokhama, vice president of a recruitment agency called Kizuna HR Asia, said that while the agency charged around $3,500 per worker, the money was only for training and preparing the workers.

“We don’t make any promises with them that they will be chosen to work in Japan,” he said.

He said that while the agency monitored the workers for three years, they made no guarantees about the quality of the company or promised work.

“We can’t guarantee that the companies are good, but we trust the implementation of laws in Japan since they have been evaluated by Japanese authorities,” Chhim Sokhama said.

However, Japanese media have reported that employers violated labor laws with foreign workers, in some cases not paying them for six months or misleading workers to expect generous overtime work and pay.

Dy Thehoya, a program officer with the labor rights group Central, said the worker recruitment to Japan needs better management, adding that recruitment agencies too often were finding ways to defraud Cambodians.

“In some cases, the [agencies] are just schools for teaching [Japanese] language but they recruit workers. Some take $1,000 or $2,000 but then the [workers] can’t go [to Japan],” Dy Thehoya said.

He said that training fees can sometimes reach $6,000, which is a huge burden for farmers, many times forcing them to take loans. “What if they are cheated,” he added.

Central had received a complaint from more than 100 people who said they were not sent to Japan as promised by the company.

“We have also received cases of missing workers and working overtime from 4 a.m. to midnight,” he said.

Heng Sour, spokesman for the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training could not be reached for comment.

Despite the potential risks, Chea Sokunthea was eager to go to Japan and get to work.

“I don’t feel scared since other people [I know] are working there,’’ the 22-year-old resident of Bek Peang. “They said and they told me that there are no problems and the boss is good.”

Written by Sun Narin

Source: VOA Cambodia

Published on 10 September 2019

Link: https://www.voacambodia.com/a/rural-kampong-cham-residents-are-finding-better-paying-jobs-in-japan/5076565.html

[Cambodia] Kingdom not keen on sending more maids to Saudi Arabia

Labour Minister Ith Samheng yesterday said he is reluctant to send migrants to work as maids in Saudi Arabia following a meeting with the Saudi ambassador at the ministry.

Speaking to reporters after meeting Saudi Ambassador Shiekh Saud F. M. Al Suwelim, he noted the Kingdom does not encourage agencies to recruit migrants to work as maids abroad because there have been many cases of abuse.

“The ministry does not encourage agencies to send our workers to work as maids. But, for the other general sectors, such as construction, agriculture and industry, we encourage them to recruit and send workers over there,” Mr Samheng said.

His comments follow high profile cases of maid abuse in Saudi Arabia, which led to the jailing of a former Social Affairs Ministry secretary of state and his nephew in connection with the trafficking of nearly 300 women to work as maids in Saudi Arabia.

Ahmad Yahya and his nephew Ismael Pin Osman, a former official at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, recruited the women, some of whom were underage, from 2004 to 2017 and sold them for $20,000 each to employers in Saudi Arabia to work as maids.

Last year, Othsman Hassan, a Labour Ministry secretary of state, said the government had rescued five women from Saudi Arabia after they were cheated by brokers and were working there illegally. Some of the rescued maids had been stuck in Saudi Arabia for more than ten years without pay.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs last year rescued and repatriated nearly 8,500 migrants from overseas abuse. Ministry spokesman Ket Sophann said most of the repatriated migrant workers were employed as maids or fishermen, and many others were trafficked to marry men.

He noted that the cases mostly occurred in Malaysia, China, Vietnam and Thailand.

Mr Samheng said that during yesterday’s meeting, he and Mr Suwelim discussed sending more migrants to work in Saudi Arabia, and he focused on other general sectors, such as construction and agriculture, instead of maids.

“Both our countries enjoy good cooperation,” he said. “When I went to visit Saudi Arabia in 2016, we signed two agreements, one was on training and sending workers to work in general jobs and the second agreement was sending workers to work as maids.”

Mr Samheng said that following the agreement, there are now 40 legal recruitment agencies sending workers to Saudi Arabia and they cooperate with agencies in that country.

“There are now 79 Cambodians working in Saudi Arabia and the number is still small,” Mr Samheng noted. “Saudi Arabia is a large market that absorbs foreign workers from Asia, including India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and many other countries to work there.”

“During our discussion, I told the ambassador that the most important criteria to attract workers from Cambodia is wages,” he added. “Many countries have already recruited workers from Cambodia to work for high wages, such as the Republic of Korea and Japan.”

Mr Samheng added that the other factors were working conditions, job safety and arrangements to return home.

Written by Mom Kunthear
Source: The Khmer Times
Published on 6 September 2019
Link: https://www.khmertimeskh.com/50640959/kingdom-not-keen-on-sending-more-maids-to-saudi-arabia/

New rules, new debts: slavery fears rise for migrant workers in Thailand

PHNOM PENH/RAYONG, Thailand, August 30 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – When Leng Lyda swapped Cambodia for a fishing town in Thailand hoping to find a job in the seafood industry, he was ready for hard work. But he wasn’t prepared for the delay, or the debt.

The 22-year-old landed a job as soon as he arrived earlier this year, but without the right to work, he spent three months living rough on the docks and racking up debts while his employer processed the papers to hire him as a migrant worker.

“All I can do is wait,” Lyda said, sitting in a ramshackle cafe as Cambodians dragged giant nets onto trawlers behind him.

“After, I have no choice but to work for him until I repay the debt,” he said, explaining that he would start his job owing at least 30,000 Thai baht ($980) to his employer due to the registration fee and other expenses. “My fate is in his hands.”

Millions of migrant workers from Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos toil in Thailand’s low-skilled sectors, where limited state oversight and unscrupulous employment practices leave many vulnerable to exploitation and modern slavery, activists say.

The Southeast Asian nation last year launched an overhaul of the registration process for migrant workers, granting them the same labor rights as local hires, including access to free healthcare, pension contributions and child allowances.

In the first phase of the revamp, the government aims to ensure two million legitimate migrant workers are registered afresh – a process that must be carried out by employers but paid for by workers earning as little as 10,000 baht a month.

Visas, work permits and health checks – the conditions of the new agreement – cost a total of about 6,700 baht.

However migrants and labor activists said that employers, middlemen and brokers are inflating the cost and saddling workers with fresh debts – trapping many in exploitative workplaces as they struggle to pay off what they owe.

Debt bondage is one of the world’s most prevalent forms of modern slavery, which affects 610,000 people in Thailand, shows the Global Slavery Index by rights group Walk Free Foundation.

“EDGE OF SOCIETY”

Dozens of migrant workers in the eastern province of Rayong told the Thomson Reuters Foundation they had been charged up to 25,000 baht by their employers to be registered under the new system – almost four times the cost set out by the government.

“(Migrant) workers (in Thailand) mostly get their information from the employers and brokers who take advantage of them and profit by keeping a percentage of their pay,” said Sa Saroeun with the Raks Thai Foundation, a legal aid charity.

“Migrant workers live on the edge of society, afraid to do wrong, so whatever their bosses tell them, they will pay,” added Saroeun, who works to inform migrants about their legal rights.

The labor ministry is telling migrant workers the real costs of registration with the new system and encouraging them to report employers who charge higher fees, said Suwan Duangta, inspector-general at the ministry’s department of employment.

“Workers are not able to submit requests on their own,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “If the employers charge more, the workers can file a complaint to the department, and then the department will ask the employer to return the money.”

Yet charities that help migrant workers said they had little confidence in the state’s message finding its intended audience.

Thailand has three million migrant workers on its books but the United Nations’ migration agency (IOM) estimates there are at least two million more working illegally across the country.

But the overhaul is unlikely to encourage undocumented workers or new arrivals seeking work to become registered, according to Reuben Lim, an IOM spokesman in Thailand.

Informal fees, time-consuming visits to government agencies, and confusion over legal processes have long dissuaded migrants from obtaining legitimate jobs, both activists and workers said.

“Many migrant workers continue to believe that the cumbersome process does not outweigh the speed, flexibility and cost-effectiveness of irregular channels,” Lim of the IOM said.

STUCK

When about 30 Cambodian factory workers were informed of the new system at a workshop in Rayong in June, just six of them said they would be able to cover the registration cost up front.

The rest told the Thomson Reuters Foundation the only option was to ask their bosses to pay the fee on their behalf, then become indebted to them and face deductions from their wages.

Bosses often baulk at the lengthy registration process and instead turn to middlemen, according to labor activists who say this practice increases migrant workers’ debts with no guarantee that the terms of the repayment will be transparent or fair.

“There’s still no mechanism to ensure that the deduction will be legal,” said Chonticha Tangworamongkon, director of the Human Rights and Development Foundation, which provides legal aid to migrants.

Like many other migrants across Thailand, Cambodian construction worker Mao Malis has no idea how much money she owes her boss – or how long it will take to clear the debt.

“For now, its impossible to change employer,” said Malis, whose employer in Ban Phe – a fishing town 200 km (124 miles) south of the capital, Bangkok – takes about 15% of her 11,000 baht salary each month to repay her registration costs.

“He has invested in me, so I am stuck here until he agrees that I’ve paid everything back.”

Written by Matt Blomberg and Nanchanok Wongsamuth
Source: Reuters
Published on 30 August 2019
Link: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-thailand-migrants-slavery/new-rules-new-debts-slavery-fears-rise-for-migrant-workers-in-thailand-idUSKCN1VK006

[Cambodia] Migrant workers repatriated from Thailand

The government has repatriated 85 migrant workers detained in Thailand after they were arrested in April for crossing the border illegally to find work.

A Foreign Affairs Ministry Facebook post yesterday said the Thai authorities decided to release them after intervention by the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok and consulate in Sa Kaeo province.

It noted that all 85 Cambodians had returned to their home provinces on Wednesday.

“The Thai authorities detained them since April under a new law on preventing human trafficking,” the post said. “Our embassy officials frequently visited them during their detention.”

Samley Vei, 40, who was repatriated with her husband and three children, yesterday said that she arrived home in Banteay Meanhey province’s Preah Net Preah district on Wednesday night.

“I am very happy that I was allowed to come back home,” she said. “I was very homesick while I was detained in Thailand.”

Written by Khuon Narim
Source: The Khmer Times
Published on 30 August 2019
Link: https://www.khmertimeskh.com/50638518/migrant-workers-repatriated-from-thailand/

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