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Malaysia Group Says Protection Needed for Cambodian Workers

This picture taken on January 19, 2011 shows a young woman reading advertisements for "maids wanted" outside a shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur.

An activist organization in Malaysia said Wednesday that the governments of Phnom Penh and Kuala Lumpur need to work actively to strengthen protections for domestic workers traveling from Cambodia.

The Tenaganita Women’s Force said in a statement more work needs to be done to address legal grievances for workers who meet with abuse in both countries.

Cambodia has banned the recruitment and export of laborers to Malaysia for domestic work, pending an investigation into abusive practices and the hiring of underage workers by Cambodian recruitment firms.

Meanwhile, some women who have returned after working in Malaysia say they also suffer abuse at the hands of their employers and have little recourse. Indonesia banned its own workers from going to Malaysia after similar allegations.

Tenaganita said both Cambodia and Malaysia need to “increase and improve access” to address grievance procedures for victims of violence and abuse. Recruitment should meet ILO standards for transparency and accountability, and Asean countries need to produce standards for domestic work that would help indentify worker abuse, the group said.

Ho Vuthy, labor deputy director for the Ministry of Labor, said Cambodian officials “have considered this problem for a long time.” Both countries are in discussions, he said.

Mu Sochua, a lawmaker for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party who is currently in Malaysia looking into alleged abuses, said the Ministry of Labor needs to “be responsible and reconsider the fault of related companies and bring them before the courts.”