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Migrant Workers Need Better Protection, Advocate Says


Cambodian migrant workers wait for document process as they prepare to migrate back to Cambodia at the Aranyaprathet Police station in Sa Kaew June 15, 2014.

Cambodian migrant workers wait for document process as they prepare to migrate back to Cambodia at the Aranyaprathet Police station in Sa Kaew June 15, 2014.

With an increasing number of Cambodian workers seeking employment abroad, the government now needs to pay more attention to their safety, a rights worker says.

Some 1.5 million Cambodians are estimated to be working abroad, and while this in itself is not a bad thing, measures must be put in place to assure their safety, Dy Thehoya, a program officer at the Community Legal Education Center, says.

Mr. Dy Thehoya, program officer of Cambodian NGO Community Legal Education Center (CLEC) discusses the risks faced by Cambodian migrant workers abroad on VOA Khmer's Hello VOA radio call-in show, Monday, May 11, 2015. (Lim Sothy/VOA Khmer)

Mr. Dy Thehoya, program officer of Cambodian NGO Community Legal Education Center (CLEC) discusses the risks faced by Cambodian migrant workers abroad on VOA Khmer's Hello VOA radio call-in show, Monday, May 11, 2015. (Lim Sothy/VOA Khmer)

“There is not enough attention to protect and take care off the wellbeing of Cambodian workers abroad,” he said. “At all.”

Workers are spread across Thailand, South Korea, Malaysia, and even China, which creates challenges, he said. “Migration is not a bad thing, but the bad thing is a procedure to send migrant workers without the assurance of safety,” he said.

At least 30 different recruitment companies have licenses to bring workers to other countries, but there is little oversight or punishment for wrongdoings, he said. That means some of the companies are involved in human trafficking, exploitation and rights abuse, he said.

In the worst cases, workers find themselves in terribly abusive situations, which can lead them to be disabled or mentally ill for life, he said.

He urged Cambodia’s policymakers to maintain national stability by bringing in more investment and jobs to Cambodia, which would deter people from seeking work abroad. Surveys show a majority of workers feel like they have to go abroad to find stable jobs or pay off debts.

“Cambodian people do not want to go far away, but these are the factors that force them to go,” he said.

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