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Monday, October 17, 2011

DOMESTIC HELP ISSUE WILL BE DISCUSSED WITH CAMBODIA, SAYS DR SUBRAMANIAM

SHAH ALAM, Oct 17 (Bernama) -- Human Resource Minister Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam said Malaysia will hold talks with Cambodia to resolve the ban the Cambodian government has imposed on the sending of domestic help to Malaysia.

He said the government was willing to hear views from the Cambodian government on ways to improve the welfare of Cambodian maids working in Malaysia.

"At my ministry level, we will look at all the processes to see how we can improve the existing system to improve supervision as to the welfare of foreign workers, specifically domestic help," he said in commenting on the ban imposed by the Cambodian government on Friday following reports of a few cases of abused involving Cambodian maids working in Malaysia.

Dr Subramaniam said the abuse cases were a "one rotten apple spoils the whole barrel" situation because only about one per cent of registered maid employers in the country were found to have acted cruelly against their maids.

Earlier, he had handed over offer letters to 39 school leavers from around the Klang Valley to pursue studies under the ministry''s MYSKILLS programme.

-- MORE

SUBRAMANIAM-CAMBODIA 2 (LAST) SHAH ALAM

The progamme, launched in June, to date has provided study opportunities to 2,590 school leavers from throughout the peninsula.

According to Dr Subramaniam, graduates of the programme could earn good incomes working as welders, cooks and mechanics.

-- BERNAMA

MK NAK HA
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Cambodia Worries about long-term flood fallout

KRATIE PROVINCE, 17 October 2011 (IRIN) - Severe flooding across Cambodia poses serious risks to the country's food security, according to NGOs.

Flooding has spread across 17 of Cambodia's 24 provinces, killing 247 people, forcing the evacuation of more than 34,000 households, and destroying some 200,000 hectares of rice fields, which comprise nearly 10 percent of the country's harvest, according to the National Committee for Disaster Management (NCDM) [ http://www.ncdm.gov.kh/ ], a government agency.

It said flood damage, including destruction of more than 1,000 schools and some 2,400km of roads, would exceed that caused by devastating floods in 2000, which cost US$161 million in damage.

Leh Smah, 62, said a third of residents in his community, Chhoer Teal Plun Village in Kratie Province in the northeast, had lost large parts or all of their rice harvest.

The 20kg rice sacks donated to affected families by the Red Cross will last a week, he said. "Soon they will be out of food again and will have to purchase food on credit unless they receive more aid."

More than 80,000 families have received aid, according to the NCDM.

Francis Perez, head of Oxfam in Cambodia, said flood relief varied by province, with robust assistance in most areas but there were still "huge pockets where emergency response has been very inadequate".

The southeastern province of Prey Vey in particular, he said, had received far less flood relief than other provinces and some communities were facing food shortages.

Recovery
The longer-term impact of the flooding remains uncertain but, says Rosaleen Martin, a spokesperson for the UN World Food Programme, there are widespread concerns over food security.

Prime Minister Hun Sen announced last week that the government would create a $100 million fund for relief and rehabilitation but no details have been given on how this money would be managed.

The Agriculture Ministry says it plans to distribute rice seeds to flood-affected communities to help offset losses from destroyed crops.

In a move to stabilize rice prices, which began to rise because of the flood, government authorities released 120MT of government-stocked milled rice on to the market on 16 October.

A spokesperson for the UN Disaster Management Team in Cambodia said the group was drafting a proposal for an emergency fund that would include assistance for emergency relief and the rehabilitation of destroyed fields.

Oxfam's Perez said that because of losses to their rice harvest, farmers would likely turn to borrowing, which is commonly done at usury rates "that drive people into a risky cycle".

Health risks
Health officials say the flooding had prolonged the dengue fever season: 54 children have died from the disease in the first nine months of this year, compared with 28 in 2010, according to the government's National Dengue Control Programme.

Dengue outbreaks are spurred by heavy rain, which forms pools that harbour the eggs of mosquitoes carrying the disease.

Other health risks associated with flooding include water-borne diseases spurred by damage to toilet and drinking water facilities, as well as respiratory infections and measles.

The UN and a number of NGOs were coordinating with government agencies to provide water purification tablets, ceramic water filters and jerry cans for safe water storage.

Nima Asgari, a public health specialist with the World Health Organization in Cambodia, said no signs had yet emerged of disease outbreaks in affected communities.

The main task for health officials is to restore emergency health services, including assisted birthing, to affected communities.

The UN Children's Fund is releasing funding for rural government health offices to form mobile teams to travel to families cut off from regular healthcare access because of the floods, said Richard Bridle, the group's country representative.
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Despite Ban, Cambodian Maids Still Being Sent to Malaysia

Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen signed an order in recent days that bars recruitment firms from sending domestic workers to Malaysia after numerous reports of abuses.

But a prominent rights group says the ban was quickly violated when at least two firms sent more women abroad on Monday.

Rights groups have been pressuring Phnom Penh for months to combat the abuse of Cambodian maids working in Malaysia.

Last Friday Prime Minister Hun Sen promised to take action.

On Saturday he signed an order banning Cambodian recruitment firms from sending domestic workers to Malaysia.

Rights groups welcomed the ban. Maid placement agencies condemned it.

But on Monday, Naly Pilorge, the director of rights group LICADHO, says that two firms sent at least 25 young women to Malaysia on the early morning flight from Phnom Penh.

“I mean Friday and Saturday I was encouraged, but after my colleagues reported that at least 25 women were seen leaving to Malaysia this morning, it’s clear to me that the authorities, the companies are defying this ban," said Pilorge. "So no, I’m not encouraged.”

For months opposition legislators in Cambodia have highlighted serious abuses against domestic workers in Malaysia.

Pilorge believes the government has banned the flow of migrant workers now, in part, because officials worry that Washington may downgrade its human trafficking status, putting it at risk of losing U.S. foreign aid.

The 2011 State Department Trafficking in Persons report said that Cambodia has made no improvements to identify or protect trafficking victims.

Around 300,000 young people enter Cambodia’s job market each year, but there is no paying work available locally for most.

That is why tens of thousands cross - legally and illegally - into Thailand and Malaysia each year seeking employment.

At least 30,000 Cambodian women are employed as domestic workers in Malaysia.

Many more men and women work or are trafficked into other jobs such as factories and plantations or suffer in slave-like conditions on fishing vessels and brothels.

Pilorge estimated around 3,000 Cambodian women aged 18-24 leave for Malaysia each month.

“What happens in reality is that documents are falsified, lies are said to families, to girls, recruiting agencies are detaining girls, indebting them - all these criminal acts just to meet the quota of being able to send 3,000 girls and women to Malaysia,” said Pilorge.

Just last week Cambodian police raided a recruitment firm and freed 35 underage recruits. That firm has since been closed - the first time a Cambodian labor company has been stripped of its operating license.

Pilorge says the ban is a start, but only that.

“A ban is just a temporary bandage. What really needs to happen is that no Cambodian women are sent to Malaysia until proper safeguards and other mechanisms are put in place to protect domestic workers and other Cambodian workers,” added Pilorge.

Late Monday, Malaysia’s The Star newspaper quoted the Malaysian foreign minister as saying his country will offer Cambodia an apology should the allegations of torture and abuse be found true.
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