Friday, October 14, 2011

Cambodia bans citizens from working as maids in Malaysia


PHNOM PENH — Cambodia has banned its citizens from going to work in Malaysia as maids, its prime minister said on Friday, following a series of horrific reports of beatings and rapes.

The order follows a similar ban imposed by Indonesia on its citizens from taking new jobs as domestic workers in Malaysia, where maids are common in middle-class households, thanks in part to a large migrant labor pool.

"I would like to congratulate the prime minister for the suspension," Cambodia opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua of the Sam Rainsy Party told Reuters after the decision by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Cambodia's Community Legal Education Center, which is working with abused domestic workers, said there had been reports of three maids who were killed in Malaysia, and two were raped and kept in isolation, their passports held from them.

Indonesia banned its citizens from working as maids in Malaysia in 2009 after several highly publicized cases of physical abuse by Malaysian employers, which triggered anti-Malaysia demonstrations in Jakarta.

Both countries held discussions and reached an agreement in April this year after Malaysia pledged to improve working conditions, but Indonesia has yet to allow hiring to resume, worsening a growing shortage of domestic helpers in the country.

Malaysia is dependent on migrant workers who total up to 2 million people or 21 percent of the country's workforce. Indonesia is the main source of foreign labor in Malaysia. One in every 16 residents in Malaysia's capital hires an Indonesian helper, according to data from the Indonesian Embassy.

An Bunhak, president of the Association of Cambodian Recruiting Agencies, said it would uphold the order from the government to stop sending people to work as maids in Malaysia.

"The Ministry of Labour is enforcing what the prime minister has said," An Bunhak said, adding that about 50,000 maids have sought work in Malaysia since 2009.

Cambodian recruitment agencies also this year decided not to send maids to Kuwait after complaints by human rights groups of abuse by employers there.


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