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Youth Representatives Debate Migrant Labor Policies

The Cambodian government came under criticism Wednesday for failing to create jobs for an influx of workers entering the market and instead sending too many workers abroad.

Speaking at a forum to discuss the government’s migrant worker policies, In Sam Ol, a youth representative for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, said authorities had failed to develop an economy that could absorb some 137,000 workers this year alone.

“The flow of laborers to foreign countries is a sign that shows Cambodia lacks jobs,” he said, speaking at a forum for youth political representatives of the Sam Rainsy Party and ruling Cambodian People’s Party. “The countries receiving our laborers look down on our country. For this reason, we must prevent the flow of Cambodian laborers to foreign countries.”

The forum, sponsored by the US-based International Republican Institute, was held to address an increase of workers to foreign markets, amid increasing allegations of abuse, especially of workers who wind up in Malaysia.

The forum was held to prepare young voters for the upcoming commune elections next year and national elections scheduled for 2013.

Cambodia exports labor to Japan, Malaysia, South Korea and Thailand especially. The World Bank estimates there are some 350,000 Cambodian workers abroad, while the International Labor Organization says up to 300,000 young workers into the market each year. Official government figures estimate some 126,000 workers are abroad legally, sending remittances of $180 million a year.

Sar Soputra, a CPP youth supporter, said the flow of Cambodian labor to foreign countries helped them earn incomes for the families. Legal migrant workers are well paid for their work, he said.

“But the negative [problem] is because of some companies or middlemen who lobby them to work illegally outside Cambodia,” he said.