Several government entities and international institutions are reviewing Cambodia’s National Plan for the implementation of the World Covenant on Safe, Orderly and Legal migration, to ensure that migration in both the Kingdom and other countries does not lead to labour exploitation.

Prior to the implementation of this national plan, the National Committee for Counter Trafficking (NCCT) held a November 1 national meeting to review and finalise its plans. The meeting was attended by representatives of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), several ministries and relevant institutions, as well as domestic and international partners.

Chou Bun Eng, permanent vice-chair of the NCCT, said on November 2 that the meeting was significant, as Cambodia is one of 183 signatories to the migration covenant.

She explained that in order to implement the covenant, it is necessary to prepare important national plans. The first goal is to assemble and collate the necessary evidence and data to allow the preparation of evidence-based policies. Second, borders need to be managed safely and harmoniously. Third, international cooperation and global partnerships on safe, orderly and legal migration must be strengthened.

“The implementation of the covenant is very important for us. We want to help and learn from each other to make migration, in both our country and others, safe,” she said.

She added that in 2024, Cambodia will present some of the results it hopes to achieve through its plans for the implementation of the covenant.

Moeun Tola, executive director of the Centre for Labour Alliances and Human Rights (CENTRAL), said that as this international legal standard relates to human rights, it is an obligation of the state, as through the Paris Peace Agreements – as well as the 1993 Constitution – Cambodia ratified and accepted an obligation to respect universal human rights as a member of the UN.

He added that the rights of migrant workers are part of universal human rights, especially while Cambodia is sending workers abroad, including to Thailand, South Korea, Japan and Malaysia.

He also noted that in the past, the Kingdom has received many migrant workers, most often from Myanmar, China and Bangladesh to work in the construction sector, making it even more necessary for Cambodia to implement the World Covenant and respect and promote the rights of migrant workers.

“We are aware that many of our workers who go to Thailand or Malaysia are subjected to labour exploitation. While Cambodia focuses on signing memorandums of understanding [MoU] on trade, it has never negotiated terms to protect the rights of migrant workers. If we can implement this effectively, it means that we will reduce the risk of exploitation,” he said.

He added that when there is no exploitation or other issues, for migrant workers, it also helps to improve Cambodia’s image on the international stage, particularly as it also builds trust between the country receiving worker and their country of origin.