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Silence After Recruitment Firm Settles in Death of Woman

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

The husband of a woman who died after remaining ill in a recruitment center in Phnom Penh has settled with the company, but rights groups say they want a full investigation to continue.

Chin Sopheap, 36, was recruited to work as a waitress in Malaysia, but after she arrived at the company’s local center, she fell ill.

The company reportedly would not let her leave without being paid back money it had already invested in the woman.

Khiep Sony, general manager of the recruiting company, International Investment Services, Ltd., told VOA Khmer Chin Sopheap was ill before she arrived. The company tried to send her to the hospital “many times,” he said, but “she had a problem with her husband.” He blamed her death in a hospital on Friday of a heart attack.

Husband Heng Saroeun, 51, who had previously spoken about his wife’s death to local media, told VOA Khmer he had agreed to $4,000 in compensation but had agreed not to discuss the case further. He would now focus on her seven-day funeral ceremony, he said.

An increasing number of Cambodians are seeking work in Malaysia, subject to aggressive recruitment by local companies that work with Malaysia placement firms.

Critics warn that recruitment practices are not well governed and that women are at risk of abuse on their arrival in Malaysia.

Many recruiting companies offer families cash and rice up front as an incentive to join up for work. New government regulations for migrant labor have aimed at curbing the practice, but it is still common.

Chin Sopheap was recruited for work in January. Heng Saroeun previously said she had fallen ill with stomach problems, but the company would not release her without being repaid the $600 it had invested in her in paperwork and incentives to the family.

No autopsy was performed on her body, and the cause of death remains a mystery, said Am Sam Ath, lead investigator for the rights group Licadho. Licadho currently views the case as one of worker detention, he said.

Chim Sopheap is the second worker to die while awaiting work in Malaysia. The first woman died last year at the recruiting center of a Phnom Penh company, VC Manpower. Officials said at the time she too had died of a heart attack.

Chan Saveth, head of investigation for the rights group Adhoc, said that even if families receive compensation from companies, they can pursue legal charges. “This case cannot be solved with money,” he said.