A DISTRICT official said yesterday that she plans to ask City Hall and the Labour Ministry to investigate a company accused of forcing more than 200 would-be migrant workers to live in squalid conditions in Russey Keo district.
Police discovered the 232 women and girls, who were being trained to work as domestic helpers in Malaysia, during a police raid on three villas in Chroy Changvar commune owned by the Champa Manpower Group.
District Deputy Chief Ly Rosami said local authorities were tipped off to the presence of the workers by people living next to the villas, who said they had found a note dropped out of a window by one of the allegedly detained workers. “There were 232 workers locked in the rooms in the three different houses,” Ly Rosami said.
She added that although the company was legally registered to train and send workers to Malaysia, it might have broken the law.
“The company is legal, but what the company owner is doing wrong is that he locked those workers in the room without having freedom,” she said.
The rooms in which the girls were kept, she said, were “like a duck or chicken cage because they are small and smell bad”.
The owner of the company, she said, had told officials that the women and girls were not typically detained but admitted that at the time of the raid he had temporarily detained several who were threatening to break their contracts.
Ly Rosami called on City Hall and Labour Ministry officials to decide whether the company should be closed down, and whether criminal charges should be filed against it.
City Hall and Labour Ministry officials could not be reached yesterday. As of last night, the trainees remained in the villas.
Sus Math, the director of the Champa Manpower Group, also could not be reached yesterday.
Teouk Ny, a 27-year-old Champa Manpower Group trainee who was among those living in the villas, said around 30 or 40 women and girls sleep on the floor in each of the four rooms of her building.
She added, though, that she believed the company had treated the trainees well.
“The owner takes care of all workers,” she said, and added that food and accommodation had been free during a training session that lasted about four months. In addition, she said, the company pays for passports and flights to Malaysia, and gives each trainee’s family between 480,000 and 500,000 riels (around $119) and some rice.
In return, the company is entitled to each worker’s wages for the first four months after finding them jobs in Malaysia. Teouk Ny, another would-be migrant worker, said several people had been detained against their will for around two months in her villa, but insisted that the company was not at fault.
“There are about five or six [trainees] who were locked in the room without being allowed out because they want to escape from the company,” she said.
“The company cannot let them go because they already took the money and rice for their family, and the company also prepared the passport and relevant documents.”
She added that she did not know whether people had been detained in the other two villas, but said the company owner allowed most of the residents in hers to come and go as they pleased. “I can go out every time without having a problem,” she said.
A 22-year-old trainee who identified herself only as Rotha, and who said she was the manager of Teouk Ny’s villa, told reporters that she needed permission from her boss before allowing them to enter.
She confirmed that several trainees had been held for around two months, but said that, following the visit from authorities on Monday, they had agreed to honour their contracts and remain in the villas.
She added that the company owner was “generous” and “never yelled” at trainees.
(from Phnompenh post, Wednesday, 14 July 2010 15:02 Mom Kunthear)