Cablegate: Legal Labor Migration -- Reducting Poverty or Trafficking

DE RUEHPF #0366/01 0650422
P 060422Z MAR 07





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) Summary. On February 22, 37 Cambodian workers, who
migrated legally to Thailand in January 2007 to work in a rubber
factory, returned to Cambodia through their recruiting company.
Workers complained that their working conditions were not as
promised. The Cambodian government promotes labor migration as a
means to increase income generation opportunity, reduce poverty and
diminish stress on its labor market; however, poor management and
lack of adequate monitoring may lead to a negative result. End

A Case of Migration Gone Bad

2. (U) On February 22, the labor export company Top Manpower
returned 37 out 43 Cambodian legal migrant workers, who had gone to
work in a rubber factory in the southern Thailand province of Nakorn
Sri Thammarat under the labor export arrangement agreed to by both
the Cambodian and Thai governments. The workers went to work for
Southland Resources Factory on January 24, after being recruited by
the Top Manpower recruiting company.

3. (U) According to the Cambodian human rights NGO LICADHO, the
recruitment announcement stated that the workers were to work eight
hours per day, in exchange for a daily wage of 240 to 260 Baht
(~USD6.86 to USD 7.42). The factory was also responsible for daily
meals and the accommodations of the workers. In reality, the
workers had to work 10 hours per day for a daily wage of only 160 to
170 Baht (~USD4.57 to USD4.85). The factory also refused
responsibility for meals and accommodations, as promised by the
recruitment process. Workers claimed that in addition to the USD100
to USD150 each of them paid for their travel documents, the company
charged each of them USD500 for unspecified reasons to be deducted
from their respective salaries over a period of two years. The
company confiscated the workers' passports upon arrival in Thailand.

4. (U) The workers tried to contact the labor recruiting company
several times before their return, but to no avail. The workers
could not return by themselves as their passports had been taken
away. Eventually, the workers contacted LICADHO for assistance,
after which the latter contacted the concerned authority in
Thailand, leading to the eventual return of 37 workers. The other
six workers decided to stay in the factories, after having
re-negotiated with the factory.

5. (U) LICADHO staff indicated that the workers plan to file a
complaint with the Ministry of Labor and Vocation training (MOLVT),
demanding the return of their passports, repayment of the money they
paid the company for their travel documents, and their unpaid
salaries. The MOLVT said they will work with the recruiting company
to resolve this problem.

6. (U) This case is illustrative of the legal migration dilemma.
In 2006, the NGO Cambodian Women's Crisis Center (CWCC) reported
thirteen similar cases for Malaysia. In a public forum entitled
safe migration and labor rights organized by the NGO Coordination of
Action Research on AIDS and Migration (CARAM) Cambodia and MOLVT in
September 2006, two women who had experienced difficult work
conditions in Malaysia as domestic maids talked about their problems
and ordeals. One said that her passport was taken but no document
of any kind was given to verify her legal status. The other woman
said that she complained of abusive work conditions to the
recruitment company. However, the company told her that her pay
would be cut if she changed employers. She ran away one day and met
a sympathetic Malaysian who took her to CARAM, after which she was
returned to Cambodia.

Passport Confiscation Justified

7. (U) In the September CARAM-sponsored public forum, Ms. Medine
Nathya, Director of the Cambodian Labor Supply Company, admitted
that the company confiscates the workers' passports upon arrival.
She claimed that workers often lose their passport which causes the
company problems as well as a financial loss. She also said that
the workers cannot use the passport anyway without authorization
from the company. For these reasons, the company keeps the
passports but provides workers with a paper allowing to travel
freely within the country but not internationally. According to
her, the MOLVT has approved this procedure.

Facts on Cambodian Exports of Labor

8. (U) Mr. Nhem Kim Houy, Office Chief of the MOLVT's Employment
Department, said that exporting labor abroad is one of the
government priorities, as it is an effective means to promote
Cambodian economic development through foreign remittances. He
acknowledged that seeking employment for people is a challenge for

PHNOM PENH 00000366 002 OF 002

the government; therefore, the government has to partner with
private companies. Target destinations for Cambodian labor are
Thailand, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan.

9. (U) According to statistics provided by the MOVLT, as of
December 2006, 7,451 Cambodians had been sent to work legally in
Malaysia since 1998, mostly in domestic work; 3,399 in the Republic
of Korea since 2003; and 445 in the Kingdom of Thailand since
October 2006. In 2006, Cambodia was permitted to send 1,050 workers
to Korea but this quota has been increased to 3,000 additional
workers for 2007. Sending labor to Japan is still under discussion
since a bilateral labor export agreement has not yet been signed and
as Japan demands higher standards than other countries.

10. (U) According to a 2006 survey, there are 180,000 Cambodian
illegal migrants working in Thailand. Both countries have been
working together to legalize the status of these workers so they may
work in Thailand legally. Between March 2005 and March 2006, both
governments registered and provided identity cards to 37,142 of the
180,000 illegal migrants; however, only 12,694 registered workers
received a Thai visa and Work Permit. The Thai government also
agreed to allow more Cambodian workers to work in Thailand through
approved labor recruitment companies.

List of Approved Labor Export Companies

11. (U) Labor export companies are required to deposit USD 100,000
with the MOLVT in order to gain the right to export labors. Below
is a list of companies that have officially registered with the
MOLVT and are recognized as legal exporting agents, according to a
MOLVT directive dated October 12, 2006. It should be noted that
earlier, there were more than 30 private companies, operating in
Cambodia without depositing the required amount of money with the
Ministry. Furthermore, although MOLVT has granted permission to two
companies to send labor to Japan, the Japanese government has agreed
only to accept trainees to upgrade their skills; to date, no
Cambodians have been sent to Japan through this mechanism.

1. Cambodia Labor Supply Company PTY Ltd, sending workers to
Malaysia, Thailand, South Korea and Japan.
2. Human Resources Development Co., Ltd, sending to Malaysia and
3. Philimore Cambodia Co; Ltd, sending to Malaysia and Thailand.
4. Human Power Co; Ltd, to Malaysia and Thailand.
5. Mey Yourn Service Co; Ltd, to Thailand
6. Top Manpower, to Thailand
7. CDM Trading Manpower Co; Ltd to Thailand
8. Chhun Hong Manpower Pte. Ltd to Malaysia and Thailand
9. VC Manpower Co; Ltd to Malaysia
10. (Cambodia) Victory Cooperation Co; Ltd, to Malaysia, Thailand
and Japan.
11. Ung Rithy Group, to Malaysia and Thailand.
12. SPT International Cambodia Public, to Thailand.


12. (U) The case of 37 workers highlighted the fact that migrant
workers, although having gone through legal channels to work in
foreign countries, received little protection, if any, from the
labor export companies or its agents. It is discouraging to see
that the MOLVT agreed to and allowed the companies to confiscate the
workers passports upon arrival at destination.


© Scoop Media

World Headlines


New IPCC Report: ‘Unprecedented Changes’ Needed To Limit Global Warming

Limiting global warming to 1.5°C will require “far-reaching and unprecedented changes,” such as ditching coal for electricity to slash carbon emissions, says a special report that finds some of the actions needed are already under way, but the world must move faster… More>>


Jamal Khashoggi: UK, France, Germany Join Calls For Credible Investigation

Germany, the United Kingdom and France share the grave concern expressed by others including HRVP Mogherini and UNSG Guterres, and are treating this incident with the utmost seriousness. More>>


MSF Not Wanted: Nauru Government Shows Continued Callousness

The Nauruan Government’s decision to ask Doctors Without Borders to immediately leave shows continued callousness towards asylum seekers desperately seeking a safe place to call home, Green MP Golriz Ghahraman said today. More>>


Sulawesi Quake, Tsunami: Aid Response Begins

Oxfam and its local partners are standing by to deploy emergency staff and resources to the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, as an estimated 1.5 million people are thought to be affected by the massive earthquake and tsunami that hit on Friday. More>>


Decriminalising Same-Sex Relationships: UN Rights Chief Applauds Indian Decision

“This is a great day for India and for all those who believe in the universality of human rights," Bachelet said. "With this landmark decision, the Indian Supreme Court has taken a big step forward for freedom and equality...” More>>


  • Pacific.Scoop
  • Cafe Pacific
  • PMC