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Labor Expert Urges Caution Before Workers Sent to Qatar

  • Men Kimseng
  • VOA Khmer

FILE - In this May 4, 2015, file photo taken during a government organized media tour, a foreign worker climbs scaffolding at the Al-Wakra Stadium that is under construction for the 2022 World Cup in Doha, Qatar.

Parliament voted in 2012 to approve the agreement to send workers to Qatar, which has said it wants to hire some 33,000 Cambodian laborers.

A labor rights worker has told VOA Khmer that the government should put in place more protections before giving the green light to send workers to Qatar.

Dy Thehoya, program officer at labor rights group Central, told Hello VOA last week that Cambodia should first expand its embassy in the Gulf state and create a committee to oversee the implementation of an agreement to send workers to Qatar.

Thehoya said labor rights groups were concerned over reports of poor conditions faced by workers in the Emirate who had fallen victim to exploitation.

“Qatar is a rich country and employs people from poor countries, but it does not have civil society groups or human rights organizations,” said Thehoya. “They don’t care about human rights.”

Parliament voted in 2012 to approve the agreement to send workers to Qatar, which has said it wants to hire some 33,000 Cambodian laborers.

At least 1,000 people have signed up and about 200 have undertaken training to prepare them for the move, according to Thehoya.

Dy Thehoya, program officer of center for alliance of labor and human rights, discusses ways to prevent exploitation and abuses of Cambodian migrant workers in Qatar, during a call-in show Hello VOA, on Thursday, March 23, 2017. (Lim Sothy/VOA Khmer)
Dy Thehoya, program officer of center for alliance of labor and human rights, discusses ways to prevent exploitation and abuses of Cambodian migrant workers in Qatar, during a call-in show Hello VOA, on Thursday, March 23, 2017. (Lim Sothy/VOA Khmer)

“I think that there should be close monitoring on recruitment companies as well to make sure that they follow the labor law and respect workers’ rights,” he added. “We had a bitter experience of exploitation in the case of sending workers to Malaysia and other countries.”

He said the workers should be given the contact information of rights groups before they leave, but said he was skeptical they would be able to help if anything went wrong. “Even if we do this there’s no guarantee that we will be able to help them when they are in trouble,” he said.

International rights groups have reported that thousands of construction workers, mostly from Nepal, India and Bangladesh, have already died on construction sites as the tiny Arab nation prepares to host the soccer World Cup in 2022.

"For players and fans, a World Cup stadium is a place of dreams,” a report by Amnesty International into the scandal noted. “For some of the workers who spoke to us, it can feel like a living nightmare.”

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