Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Maid to return from Saudi Arabia as deal nears

Maid to return from Saudi Arabia as deal nears

Maid to return from Saudi Arabia as deal nears

Consular officials yesterday were working to repatriate a Cambodian maid fleeing what she described as unfair working conditions in Saudi Arabia, even as Cambodia’s minister of labour was en route to seal a long-awaited deal to open a pipeline of workers to the Gulf nation.

Labour Ministry spokesman Heng Sour said yesterday evening that Labour Minister Ith Samheng was on his way to Saudi Arabia and was “probably” going to conclude a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Saudis for Cambodian workers to be sent there.

“[Samheng] is likely to sign the MoU if the remaining clauses are concluded by both parties,” Sour said.

“Now he is on his way to Saudi Arabia and he will return here on [February] 12,” he added.

In the works since 2014, the MoU would be the first step in creating a legal avenue for Cambodians to work in Saudi Arabia, a country often described as one of the world’s worst places for migrant workers.

Cambodian Him Srey, who arrived in Saudi Arabia on January 8, told the Post yesterday that she is already prepared to come home.

Srey, a 39-year-old member of Cambodia’s Muslim Cham minority from Kampong Cham province, said a local broker promised she would be paid $300 a month as a maid in Riyadh.

However, Srey said she had been paid a total of only 10 Riyals ($2.67) so far, and was forced to toil off-hours with little food.

“My arm was broken after a moto accident in Cambodia … so when I arrived [in Riyadh], my arm didn’t work so well, but I tried to work hard in the household. The employer always blamed me, saying I was useless and always sick,” she said, adding that she had been transferred to different households four times.

Mat Yo Sos, Srey’s husband in Kampong Cham’s Kang Meas district, said Srey’s broker was demanding $1,500, a sum he was too poor to afford, to send Srey back home.

Because Cambodia has no embassy in Saudi Arabia, it is working with its embassy in Kuwait to repatriate Srey “soon”, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Chum Sounry.

But Srey’s case – and numerous other reports of migrant worker abuse in Saudi Arabia – is not stopping Cambodia from potentially sending its workers there.

Sour, of the Labour Ministry, explained that Srey and other Cambodians currently working in Saudi Arabia are “undocumented” and that the MoU would create a path to ensure Cambodians work there with full protections.

Sour stressed that Cambodians would only be sent to Saudi Arabia once a bilateral implementation agreement detailing such protections is signed.

But William Conklin, country director of the Solidarity Center, was sceptical Cambodian workers would be treated well there under any agreement.

“There is no civil society to intervene and workers have no rights there,” he said. “[Workers] often have to surrender their passports and sign contracts but find the terms have changed afterwards.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Hun Sen gets Covid, shuns G20, APEC summits

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said he has tested positive for Covid-19 in Indonesia, where he is slated to attend the G20 summit in his capacity of the ASEAN chair. In a social media post addressing the Cambodian public, he said: “Before leaving Cambodia, I always

  • Moody’s sets outlook rating to ‘negative’ for Cambodia

    US global rating agency Moody’s Investors Service Inc on November 15 announced that it downgraded Cambodia’s outlook from “stable” to “negative” and maintained its B2 local and foreign currency issuer ratings. “The negative outlook reflects a deteriorating external position as illustrated by the severe

  • Hong Kong firm done buying Coke Cambodia

    Swire Coca-Cola Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed Swire Pacific Ltd, on November 25 announced that it had completed the acquisition of The Coca-Cola Co’s bottling business in Cambodia, as part of its ambitions to expand into the Southeast Asian market. Swire Coca-Cola affirmed

  • Korean first lady paves way for ill boy’s surgery

    A 14-year-old boy with congenital heart disease who was lucky enough to meet with South Korean first lady Kim Keon-hee may get the chance of a lifetime and receive surgery and treatment at Asan Medical Center in Seoul, South Korea. After seeing his plight, many

  • Hun Sen’s Covid infection caused by ‘weakened antibody’ after summit

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said exhaustion from heavy workload before and during the recent ASEAN Summit may have led to him contracting Covid-19 due to his weakened immune system, while rejecting speculations that the infection was caused by leaders of some countries who did not

  • Kingdom’s rice crowned world’s No1

    Cambodia’s Phka Rumduol jasmine variety has been crowned the World’s Best Rice for the fifth time at the TRT (The Rice Trader) World Rice Conference in Phuket, Thailand on November 17, according to leaders of the Kingdom’s apex rice industry body. Phka Rumduol