A Cambodian nongovernmental organization has asked the government to reconsider sending migrant workers to South Korea to prevent them from being taken advantage of by their employers.
Ya Nayut, director of Caram Cambodia, an organization that assists migrant workers, said the country should send skilled workers to the East Asian country rather than unskilled one to reduce the likelihood of exploitation and abuse.
“It is a positive issue for Cambodia to ask to increase the number of its workers in South Korea, but in the long run, Cambodia must resolve employment issues,” he told RFA’s Khmer Service.
Ya Nayut urged the government to prosecute the companies that have abused Cambodian workers by underpaying or exploiting them through contracts that force them to work excessive hours and live in squalid conditions.
But as a longer-term solution, Cambodia should focus on creating jobs for people at home, he said.
Ya Nayut made the comments after National Assembly President Heng Sarin made a request that Seoul take on more Cambodian workers during a meeting on Wednesday with the South Korean National Assembly head Chun Ui Hwa, who is visiting Cambodia on a three-day trip.
Not enough jobs at home
Ny Chakriya, chief investigator for the Cambodian rights group Adhoc, said the country is displaying a weakness by not providing enough jobs at home and that it should try to provide employment to its citizens first before begging other countries for jobs.
“The government should resolve the employment issue,” he said. “The government shouldn’t ask foreigners to resolve unemployment for it.”
Ny Chakriya also noted that Cambodia itself accepts workers from Vietnam.
“Cambodia has granted work permits to people from Vietnam, so many Vietnamese people have the opportunity to work in Cambodia,” he said.
Yim Sinorn, president of the Youth Movement in Korea, which is aligned with the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, said it was not a good idea to send more young Cambodians to work in South Korea at this time.
He said that many workers continued to experience problems of exploitation and abuse in South Korea.
“Youths who are 18 years old should study and defend the country,” he said. “They shouldn’t become workers overseas.”
More than 35,000 Cambodians work in South Korea and send home remittances of about $200 million annually, according to a report in The Cambodia Daily.
During a February meeting with Chun Ui Hwa, Heng Samrin had asked South Korea to increase its intake of Cambodian workers and buy rice from the country, it said.
The South Korean government agreed to double the number of work permits for Cambodian migrant workers who took jobs in the country’s manufacturing, construction and agriculture sectors each year, the report said.
In 2014, Seoul had set a quota of 4,600 permits for Cambodian laborers entering the country, it said.
Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.