The families of two women working as maids in Malaysia have filed a complaint with a rights group claiming they are being forced to stay abroad against their will, the Community Legal Education Center said yesterday. Another maid, who recently returned to Cambodia after spending 14 months in Malaysia, has also complained to CLEC that her salary had been withheld.
Huy Pichsovann, program officer at CLEC, said the Phnom Penh-based job recruitment agency Human Resources Development sent Kin Nak, 25, to Malaysia in February 2010, but she had since made just one telephone call to a friend last October.
“The family now worries about her safety. They asked us to help find her,” he said.
In another complaint with CLEC, Sok Ry, 32, said she had spent 14 months in Malaysia as a maid but returned due to the physical abuse inflicted by her employer, Mr Pichsovann said.
However, upon her return, she only received one month’s pay from Human Resources Development, as she had not fulfilled her two-year contract, he said.
Abu Bakar Hassan, vice secretary-general of the Association of Cambodian Recruitment Agencies, identified himself as the former director of Human Resources Development, but claimed that he still “controlled” the agency.
He said that he was unsure whether Human Resources Development employed Ms Nak and Ms Ry, but that it was unlikely his business had abused the employees.
“My company was never accused [of abuse] or contacted by the families of our workers” with complaints. “My company pays attention to workers to resolve any problems with their employers,” said Mr Hassan, who also claimed to be a member of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s bodyguard unit.
Human Resources Development is one of Cambodia’s biggest recruitment agencies and sent 980 women to Malaysia last year, according to the Ministry of Labor. A total of about 30,000 women went to Malaysia to work as maids in 2010, and many are subject to physical abuse and exploitation by both agencies and Malaysian employers, human rights groups say.
Another maid, Sorn Sina, was recruited when she was 16 years old by the SK Service Center recruitment agency. Mr Pichsovann said that the agency had allegedly falsified her documents and registered her as being 22 years of age, before sending her abroad in December 2010.
Ms Sina’s mother, Yim Chum Lim, said her daughter called last month to complain that she was being physically abused by her Malaysian employer and wanted to return to Cambodia.
“I am still very concerned that my daughter will suffer beatings. I want her to come back,” she said, adding that the agency demanded that Ms Sina pay several thousand dollars before she could return, as she would be breaking her two-year contract.
Last week, two Cambodian maids were found dead in Malaysia. Authorities there have claimed that initial investigations pointed to two unrelated suicides.
Human rights groups and opposition party members have called for a freeze in sending maids to Malaysia until there are tougher penalties for agencies and an agreement between Cambodia and Malaysia that provides protection for Cambodian workers.
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