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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Aid Arrives for Flood-Swamped Thailand, Cambodia

Thai soldiers pile up sand bags to make flooding barriers in Pathum Thani province, central Thailand Friday, Oct. 14, 2011. .Help is starting to pour into Thailand and other parts of Asia where rising floodwaters are swamping entire communities and threatening to overrun even more.


United States Marines arrived in Bangkok Saturday with equipment, sandbags and other relief supplies. The U.S. ambassador to Thailand, Kristie Kenney, said the Marines will work with the Thai military to battle floodwaters that have hit 61 of Thailand's 76 provinces.

Officials say almost 300 people have died in Thailand, most of them north of Bangkok, in and near the ancient temple city of Ayutthaya.

Much of Ayutthaya remained under water Saturday, driving some residents, and their pets, to the rooftops of homes to stay dry. In less affected areas, where water was only waist deep, relief crews in boats distributed supplies to stranded residents.

A Dutch volunteer, Edwin Wiek, said many people in Ayutthaya have no electricity, food or water; others are sick and have no means of getting out.

Workers at the Bang Pa-in industrial center in Ayutthaya province tried to keep out rising water but had to abandon the effort Saturday. News reports say the complex hosted more than 90 manufacturers of auto parts, electronics, garments and plastics.

Thais who doggedly stayed by their homes on Koh Kred Island tried to make their way through floodwaters that were chest- or neck-high.

Aid from China arrived Saturday in Cambodia, where flooding and landslides have killed 247 people. A Cambodian government spokesman said the relief supplies will go to hospitals in the hardest-hit areas.

Torrential rains and flooding are also being blamed for deaths in Vietnam and the Philippines.
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Cambodia: Overhaul Protections for Migrant Domestic Workers

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's proposed ban on sending domestic workers to Malaysia should be accompanied by a major overhaul in protections for these workers. On October 14, 2011, Hun Sen promised an opposition lawmaker, Mu Sochua, to halt migration in the wake of repeated complaints of abuse during recruitment in Cambodia and employment in Malaysia.

(New York) - Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's proposed ban on sending domestic workers to Malaysia should be accompanied by a major overhaul in protections for these workers, Human Rights Watch said today. On October 14, 2011, Hun Sen promised an opposition lawmaker, Mu Sochua, to halt migration in the wake of repeated complaints of abuse during recruitment in Cambodia and employment in Malaysia.

Underage recruitment, forced confinement in training centers, and deception about recruitment debts and working conditions plague the recruitment of tens of thousands of Cambodians migrating to Malaysia as domestic workers, Human Rights Watch said.

"Prime Minister Hun Sen is finally demonstrating concern about the plight of Cambodian migrant domestic workers, but a ban is only a temporary measure," said Jyotsna Poudyal, women's rights research fellow at Human Rights Watch. "The government should introduce major reforms, in consultation with civil society, to improve regulation and monitoring of labor recruitment in Cambodia so that women can migrate voluntarily and safely."

An official announcement confirming the ban has yet to be made, but labor recruitment agencies have reported that they received an order to halt recruitment from the Labor and Vocational Training Ministry.

Malaysia excludes domestic workers from key provisions in its Employment Act, including limits on working hours and a requirement for a weekly day off. High-profile abuse cases and disagreements about minimum protections led Indonesia to suspend sending domestic workers there in June 2009, which spurred a significant increase in the recruitment of Cambodian workers.

Indonesia and Malaysia recently revised a memorandum of understanding that guarantees Indonesian domestic workers a weekly day of rest and the right to keep their passports, instead of allowing employers to hold them, restricting the ability of a worker to leave. No such protections have been extended to Cambodian workers.

"Malaysia should not respond to Cambodia's ban by turning to countries with even weaker protections for recruiting domestic workers, but should revise its labor code to strengthen its own protections," Poudyal said. "It should also improve access to complaint mechanisms and the justice system's response to allegations of abuse."

Cambodia and Malaysia should introduce protections in line with the International Labor Organization's (ILO) newly adopted Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers, Human Rights Watch said. The convention's article on recruitment agencies sets out requirements for accessible complaint mechanisms and for substantial penalties for agencies that violate standards and prohibit salary deductions for recruitment fees.

The treaty also calls for domestic workers to be guaranteed the same rights as other workers with respect to working hours, rest periods and annual leave. Cambodia and Malaysia have yet to ratify the treaty, which was adopted in June.

"Cambodia can push more effectively to protect its citizens abroad if it gets serious about dealing with human rights abuses against prospective migrants at home," Poudyal said. "And it should coordinate with other labor-sending countries to promote regional cooperation for minimum standards, to avoid a race to the bottom."
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