Government Repatriates 11 Migrant Workers From China, Malaysia

The Foreign Affairs Ministry has repatriated 11 Cambodian migrant workers from Malaysia and China over the past few days, including a woman who said she bore two children for a man she was forced to marry by the couple she worked for.

According to a series of statements issued by the ministry on Monday, the 11 were brought back to Cambodia between Friday and Sunday, nine of them from Malaysia. The other two returned from Shanghai, including a woman who said she was ill-treated by the Chinese man with whom a broker had set her up, and a 66-year-old man with a “mental illness” who could not recall when he went to China or what he did there.

The Cambodians repatriated from Malaysia left between 2006 and December of last year seeking better jobs, either as maids, construction workers, fruit vendors or, in one case, a translator, the statements said.

Cambodia barred its citizens from traveling to Malaysia to work as maids in 2011 amid mounting reports of abuse by both local recruitment agencies and their foreign employers, but authorities are in the process of reopening legal channels for migration.

Of the nine returned over the weekend, the Foreign Ministry said eight had wanted to leave because of what it vaguely described as difficult working conditions, and that their Malaysian employers had been fined.

One of the women sent back from Malaysia, however, said she left in 2010 to work as a maid and in 2014 found herself with a Malaysian couple that forced her to marry an Indonesian man, who in turn made her do construction work and with whom she had two children, according to the ministry.

It said she had tried and failed to escape on her own and finally made it home on Friday—with one of her children—after her father reached out to the Cambodian government for help.

Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Chum Sounry declined to discuss the abuses the woman suffered in Malaysia or say whether Cambodian authorities were investigating or planning to take legal action.

“I can’t explain; she can explain,” he said. “Our mandate is only to intervene to bring them back. Taking action against the [recruitment] company is not our mandate.”

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