Delegation to investigate maid trade in Singapore

July 24th, 2014 , The Cambodia Daily

Seng Sakada, director-general of the Labor Ministry’s labor department, will lead a delegation to Singapore on Saturday to study the ministry’s pilot program to send domestic workers to the city-state, a recruitment agency director confirmed Wednesday.

The team will investigate the success of the program, which has in the past year sent at least 220 Cambodian women to work in Singapore. …

Hul Reaksmey

Maids forced into debt bondage in Singapore

July 4th, 2014 , The Cambodia Daily

In August last year, the government launched a pilot project that sent 220 women to work as maids in Singapore, the first major effort to open up a new market for Cambodia’s domestic workers after the government halted sending maids to Malaysia due to persistent reports of abuse.

This week, two of the maids involved in the Singapore pilot returned to Cambodia with stories of forced debt bondage and abusive conditions, once again raising serious doubts about whether the rights of Cambodian migrants can be guaranteed by the well-connected recruitment agencies sending them abroad.

Nhem Thida, 31, and Phorn Mao, 24, were lured from their rural homes by Philimore Cambodia—a recruitment agency previously accused of a litany of human rights abuses—with promises of fair salaries and first-world conditions. …

Matt Blomberg and Hul Reaksmey

Concern over migration chief’s family connections

April 24th, 2014 , The Cambodia Daily

The appointment of General Sok Phal to head the Interior Ministry’s newly formed department to monitor migrant workers has raised concerns over his close familial connection to a labor recruitment industry fraught with human rights abuses.

Gen. Phal’s sister, Ung Seang Rithy, is the owner of one of the biggest labor recruitment agencies sending Cambodian workers overseas.

Sak Setha, a secretary of state at the Interior Ministry, confirmed Tuesday that the department of immigration would deal with migrants entering and leaving the country. …

Ouk Savouth, prosecutor-general of the Phnom Penh Appeal Court, confirmed that Gen. Phal was the brother of Ms. Seang Rithy, owner of the Ung Rithy Group, which has been named by rights groups as a serial abuser of Cambodian migrant workers. Ms. Seang Rithy is also president of the Association of Cambodian Recruitment Agencies.

Gen. Phal is scheduled to assume his responsibility as director-general of the general department of immigration in a ceremony today at the Interior Ministry.

The Ung Rithy Group has been blasted for its recruitment and training practices. Dozens of returned maids have filed complaints with human rights groups outlining serious abuses, including debt bondage, forced confinement and underage recruitment. Many also had wages and passports withheld. Despite the raft of complaints, no one has ever been prosecuted.

Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch deputy director for Asia, said Wednesday that the lack of justice for abused maids was due to links between agencies and powerful officials, and that Gen. Phal’s new role would strengthen that connection. …

Matt Blomberg and Aun Pheap

Hopes high for maid program

October 18th, 2013 , The Phnom Penh Post

In one corner of the cavernous training centre, a woman patiently strips the baby blue sheets off a queen-size bed, removing the flower-patterned pillowcases and folding them neatly to one side.

Under the watchful eye of an instructor, she then remakes the bed, carefully fluffing the pillows and making sure the bed sheet is tightly tucked under the mattress so no creases show. …

This faux home, set up at the training facility of local recruitment agency Philimore Cambodia on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, is used to train domestic workers who will soon be sent to Singapore. …

Under a pilot project signed 10 months ago between the Cambodian government and Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower, 400 maids will ink two-year contracts to work in Singaporean households by February.

If it goes well, tens of thousands of Cambodian women could eventually end up on Singaporean shores.

Three Cambodian agencies are participating in the scheme: Philimore, Ung Rithy Group and Sok Leap Metrey.

Both Ung Rithy Group – headed by the Association of Cambodian Recruitment Agencies (ACRA) chief Ung Seang Rithy – and Philimore have been previously linked to a spate of cases involving the exploitation of maids sent to Malaysia, including allegations of abuse, underage workers and maids gone missing. …

But lured by the higher salary available in Singapore, as well as the perception that the rich and efficient city-state has a much stricter legal system than Malaysia, the workers at Philimore say they have no fears. …

But Bridget Tan, CEO at Singaporean anti-trafficking group Hu­manitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME), says that tough Singapore laws to protect workers simply don’t exist.

“I think [Cambodia] should be worried,” she said, citing the lack of a minimum wage and the fact that foreign domestic workers are not covered by Singaporean labour laws. …

“The Cambodian worker becomes popular because they are bearing the brunt of the cost and the profit. This is nothing to be happy about. It’s slavery,” she said.

Neither Singapore nor Cambodia has ratified the International Labour Organization convention on domestic workers, which guarantees that certain rights, such as normal hours of work and overtime compensation, are protected. …

Kevin Ponniah and Mom Kunthear

Record dogs new ACRA chief

October 24th, 2012 , The Phnom Penh Post

The owner of a labor firm repeatedly accused of human trafficking, who is also the sister of one of the country’s top police officials, has been appointed head of the Association of Cambodian Recruitment Agencies (ACRA).

Grave concerns have been expressed by rights groups over the appointment of Ung Seang Rithy, owner of the firm Ung Rithy Group, a firm they say police are reluctant to investigate, despite long-observed abuses because her brother is deputy, national police chief Sok Phal. …

According to information that rights group Licadho say they received from the Ministry of Interior, 16 under-age recruits were rescued from an Ung Rithy Group training center in 2010.  …

By David Boyle, P. 5

Teenager Rescued From T&P Training Center

August 8th, 2011 , The Cambodia Daily

Police and a human rights group said they rescued a 15-year-old girl from the training center of an overseas job recruitment agency in Kompong Chhnang province on Saturday. A rights worker said two more underage girls had been saved from being sent abroad to work by other recruitment agencies in recent weeks. Moeun Tola, head of the Community Legan Education Center’s labour program, said yesterday that the 15-year-old girl from Taranakkiri province had been brought to the T&P Co Ltd center by a job broker. The broker and the agency, Mr Tola claimed, had colluded to register the teenager under a false name and an older age, so that she would be eligible to work as a domestic servant in Malaysia, which requires migrant workers to be 21 or older.

(By Paul Vrieze and Phorn Bopah, pg 28)