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Migrant Workers To Get Free Passports

Some 25,000 migrant workers will receive free passports over the next five years, as the government seeks to promote poverty reduction by encouraging outside labor.

Reading from a directive issued Friday, Prime Minister Hun Sen said laborers and those engaged in outside on-the-job training “will be provided free passports.”

A Cambodian passport typically costs around $125, but the government will subsidize $100, with the employer expected to pay the difference.

More than 200,000 Cambodians are working abroad, in Malaysia, Thailandand South Korea, in industry, construction, agriculture and housework, Oum Mean, secretary of state for the Ministry of Labor, said.

“They have a working contract for between two and three years, and the laborers who work in Thailandget a benefit between $200 and $300 per month,” he said. “In Malaysia, they get between $200 and $400 per month. In South Korea, in agriculture, it’s a little lower than $1,000, and in industry, it’s more than $1,000.”

About half of their salaries are remitted to Cambodia, he said.

Seng Sakada, general director for employment at the Ministry of Labor, said the government has a policy to promote work both inside and outside the country.

A government program has sent 30 laborers to Japan, more than 5,000 to Korea, more than 12,000 to Malaysiaand nearly 8,000 to Thailand, Seng Sakada said.

The government is negotiating agreements with Qatarand Kuwaitto send workers there, he said.

Developed countries like Poland, Canadaand others are also seeking labor agreements with Cambodia, he said.

Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union, welcomed the initiative as a way to help already poor laborers. Each laborer must pay between $2,000 and $3,000 to travel abroad for work, he said. Much of that is paid to middlemen and the companies themselves.

Sometimes this money comes from the sell of cattle or land, he said.

The government and trade union officials said that workers outside the country get proper salaries they can send back to their families.