Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Wednesday that Cambodia is looking for labour markets that generate high income for Cambodian workers, such as in the Middle East.
“We are seeking markets in that region to send our workers. Our Muslim nationals can work there, but we need to have clear agreements to ensure their rights as foreign workers are protected,” he said.
Hun Sen was addressing concerns that the government sent its nationals abroad to work due to a lack of employment opportunities in the Kingdom.
Speaking to 21,000 garment workers from 14 factories in Kampong Chhnang province, he highlighted efforts to create jobs for Cambodians apart from launching a campaign to register migrants in Thailand.
He stressed that many other countries sent their nationals abroad to work and that this was commonplace.
“Some people have accused me of being a leader who sends Khmers to work as servants. They said we shouldn’t do this, and that we cannot solve labour issues."
“Let me clarify . . . look at the Philippines, they send more than 10 million workers to other countries. And in Cambodia alone, there are more than 10,000 Filipinos. They come here mostly to work as nannies for foreigners. In Kuwait, which has a population of one million, about 160,000 Filipinos are working there,” Hun Sen said.
He said during a meeting with leaders from Thailand, Laos and Myanmar this month, he discussed the campaign to document Cambodian migrant workers who are working in Thailand. This campaign is due to be wrapped up on Saturday.
The Ministry of Labour said the government has so far documented more than 1.7 million Cambodians working in Thailand, with 10,000 workers left to document.
“During this discussion, we confirmed we will complete this campaign. We have been helping with legal procedures by sending passports and documents to the borders [for migrants to complete], in order to avoid difficulties for workers. They don’t have to cross the border back and forth to come to us."
“In the meantime, we must also consider the rights of our workers outside of Cambodia. Korea has over 50,000 [Cambodian] workers, and we are negotiating to increase that number."
“We have also been negotiating with Japan. Now, step by step, Japan has accepted more Cambodians to work and study there. For Cambodian caretakers, we can send them to learn medical skills,” Hun Sen said
Meas Ny, a social development researcher, said sending many workers abroad is not a bad thing because they can earn more compared to working in the Kingdom.
“With globalisation, the flow of the labour force cannot be stopped. We must recognise that there are many Cambodians working abroad. We must acknowledge that not only Cambodians work abroad, but also people from Myanmar and Laos,” he said.