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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Cambodia concerned about labour trafficking

The Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has called for a crackdown on labour trafficking and urged Cambodians to seek employment opportunities at home.

The call comes as the government itself faces scrutiny over its regulation of so-called training centres for Cambodians seeking work abroad.

Human rights groups say the centres hold poor Cambodian women against their will, while they wait to be sent overseas for domestic work.

Reporter: Alma Mistry
Speakers: Mathieu Pellerin, consultant with Cambodian human rights group Licadho; Nilim Baruah, chief technical advisor, International Labour Organisation, Bangkok.

MISTRY: The United Nations says Cambodia is a source and a destination for sex work and forced labour. It's also a pool of cheap labour for its larger neighbours Thailand and Malaysia. In 2004, there were over 180,000 Cambodian workers registered in Thailand, according to the International Labour Organisation. In addition, the ILO estimates there were over 80,000 unregistered or illegal workers. Mathieu Pellerin from the Cambodian human rights group Licadho says the rural poor have limited options to find work in the countryside.

PELLERIN: The number of opportunities to find work in Cambodia is very low. So I don't think we could call these people opportunists- the risks of migration to find employment to in a foreign country is very high.

MISTRY: Matthieu Pellerin says workers are often sought out by recruiters who make offers that may be attractive to poor families in the villages.

PELLERIN: Basically misrepresenting what the job will be, luring the families to accepting to give one or some of their daughters to go and work in foreign countries through these recruitment agencies. And there's also a loan that is offered to family by company, roughly 100 dollars, so its a very simple form of debt bondage.

MISTRY: It's these recruiters that have come under scrutiny, after accidents and deaths involving women at a so called pre-departure centre in Phnom Penh this month. Matthieu Pellerin says it's not uncommon for women to be confined to the centres for months, with their requests to see their families ignored.

PELLERIN: There was one woman who after spending more than five months in the pre-departure centre of a recruitment agency called T and P and has requested many times to visit her children and after five months, she decided to try leaving the compound from the third floor window and fell on the ground. Four days later in that same company, a woman died. 35 year old woman died and the official cause of death the police declared, was heart attack, which could be questioned.

MISTRY: After the death Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered the Anti-Corruption Unit to look into the growing sector of recruitment. On Monday he also called on relevant local authorities to crack down on illegal labour brokers. But critics say the incidents highlight a weak system of regulation for the recruitment of exported labour from Cambodia. It's a criticism that the International Labour Organisation, which has been working with the Cambodian government, can't ignore. Nilim Baruah is the Chief Technical Advisor with the ILO in Bangkok.

BARUAH: There's enough experience to say what kind of laws should be put in place, what kind of regulations regarding cost of recruitment and transperancy regarding cost and also what kind of complaint mechanisms there should be. There can be a much better regulatory system in place but I mean in the case of Cambodia they dont really have it now. They are starting to put it in place.

MISTRY: Nilim Baruah says the Cambodian Government is working to legislate better protections for migrant workers. But he says job creation, must be the overall priority.

BARUAH: In the ILO while we promote protection of migrant workers and safe migration we emphasise first of all job creation where people so jobs should be created where people are and people, the migration choice should not be a compelling one, it should be an option.

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