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Minister Faces Assembly on Migrant Work Concerns

  • Chun Sakada
  • VOA Khmer

Within one year, Cambodia has sent 94,564 legal workers to Thailand; 19,588 to Malaysia; 9,082 to South Korea; and 97 to Japan.

More than 120,000 Cambodian workers abroad have sent some $150 million in remittances between October 2009 and October 2010, the country's labor minister told lawmakers Thursday.

Labor Minister Vong Soth told the National Assembly that remittances had become an important part of national poverty reduction, upgrading the living conditions of families in rural areas.

He was answering a set of questions prepared by lawmakers from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party. However, those lawmakers boycotted the National Assembly session Thursday, saying the president of the Assembly would not allow them to ask their questions one-by-one for the record.

A total 122,731 Cambodians were working legally abroad he said, estimating that workers sent back about half of their salaries, or about $150 million for the last fiscal year.

“We regard that amount as a contribution to the Cambodian government's poverty reduction policy,” he said.

In the past 12 months, Cambodia has sent 94,564 legal workers to Thailand; 19,588 to Malaysia; 9,082 to South Korea; and 97 to Japan, he said.

Workers in Malaysia and Thailand earn between $250 and $300 per month, compared to $600 monthly in South Korea and $900 monthly in Japan.

Earlier this year, the Labor Ministry began strengthening measures to protect migrant workers, but some have returned home with tales of abuse. Earlier this year, Indonesia banned migrant domestic workers from going to Malaysia, following reports of abuse.

Vong Soth acknowledged that his ministry had seen irregularities, including the sending of underage workers abroad, commissions for recruitment and recruiters who lacked training.

Ya Navuth, president of the CARAM organization, which helps migrant workers, said they need more protection. However, remittances do provide for better livelihoods for their families, he said.