Labour Minister Ith Samheng has urged recruitment agencies to better monitor Cambodian workers overseas to make sure employers do not exploit them.
Speaking at the tenth anniversary of the Association of Cambodian Recruitment Agencies, Mr Samheng said agencies must value the workers they send abroad.
“We have a duty to care for our workers overseas. They must not be used as slaves,” Mr Samheng said.
He added that recruitment agencies must encourage Cambodian workers and pay proper attention to them.
“I often meet our workers in Korea, Japan and Thailand. They are happy and appreciate what we are doing for them,” Mr Samheng said. “When they go to work overseas, we have to protect their rights through the laws of the country receiving them. If they go illegally, we have to help them become legal workers.”
The minister said there are 1.2 million Cambodian workers overseas, including in Thailand, Korea, Japan and Malaysia.
Ung Seang Rithy, president of the Association of Cambodian Recruitment Agencies, said her members would follow the law and improve the protection of Cambodian workers.
She said she would continue to work with the ministry to stop labour abuse and help migrants get legal worker status to avoid arrests.
Am Sam Ath, technical law advisor for rights group Licadho, said the safety of Cambodian workers overseas is still a concern.
However, he welcomed the fact that recruitment agencies have promised to do more to protect them.
“We have had many experiences with Cambodian workers or maids who were abused by their employers when they worked abroad,” Mr Sam Ath said. “It is easy to promise to do more, but the implementation is the important thing.
“Agencies have to have clear mechanisms to follow up on workers’ safety. If workers have a problem, they need to be able to contact someone to intervene for them on time.”