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Cambodia Lacks Job Market for Returning Migrant Workers, Experts Say

Cambodian migrant workers get off from a Thai truck upon their arrival from Thailand at a Cambodia-Thai international border gate in Poipet, Cambodia, Tuesday, June 17, 2014. The number of Cambodians who have returned home from Thailand this month after a

There are more than one million Cambodian migrant laborers working legally and illegally in Thailand, Malaysia, South Korea, Japan and China

Labor rights activists have urged the government to invest in long-term human resource development by focusing on skills that migrant workers can bring back home before sending them overseas.

Moeun Tola, executive director of the labor rights group Central, said that it has not focused enough on bringing skills home to roost.

“When they finish working in a host country for two or three years and return home there is no job market for the skills they acquire from overseas,” he told the Hello VOA show on Thursday.

“Some of them end up migrating to Thailand after returning from [South] Korea. Therefore, they are not able to use their skills garnered from on-the-job training to help improve our economy.”

With no mechanism to monitor the implementation of agreements signed with host countries, some laborers have fallen victim to abuses, according to Tola.

“We see that when migrant workers are sent out, there is no concrete mechanism to monitor the working conditions of Cambodian workers,” he said. “They are abandoned and subsequently have fallen victim to exploitation, abuses, torture, and, in some cases, death.”

In 2016, Central handled over 200 cases of human trafficking, passport fraud, and imprisonment of workers in Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, China, and Qatar.

There are international and domestic laws Cambodia is a signatory to that can be used to protect its citizens, but there is a lack of implementation, according to Mu Sochua, an opposition lawmaker.

“What we want the most is the protection for migrant workers,” she said.

“Therefore, all contracts and cooperation paperwork we sign between our country and a host country must be done to international standards so that our people who migrate out of the country are protected from being trafficked, exploited, and tortured.”

Sochua said lawmakers will continue to monitor the implementation of the laws and agreements and will question the labor minister or relevant officials on the progress.

In fact, the government has put in place a plan to reintegrate migrant workers by providing social and economic support, including “employment services, skills development and recognition, enterprise development training, and investment programs,” according to the Ministry of Labor’s policy on labor migration.

But Sochua said this is only on paper and most of the skills do not match market demand.

“There is very little,” she said. “And do the skills provided fit their need? There is training on hair-dressing and sewing. How many people can survive on these?”

There are more than one million Cambodian migrant laborers working legally and illegally in Thailand, Malaysia, South Korea, Japan and China