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South Korea requests ‘just politics’

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Labour Minister Ith Sam Heng meets with Cambodian employees of bathroom-equipment manufacturer Saturn Bath Company yesterday during a tour of South Korea. Photo supplied

South Korea requests ‘just politics’

Labour Minister Ith Sam Heng requested South Korean officials take steps to better accommodate Cambodian migrant workers while on a Khmer New Year tour of the country, though one labour rights leader dismissed the meeting as merely a symbolic gesture.

According to a post to Sam Heng’s Facebook page, he met with Shim Khuong-woo, the Korean official overseeing matters related to health and injuries, on April 17. Sam Heng said he had requested that South Korean authorities provide information on benefits available to Cambodian workers, create vocational education programs and establish a relationship with the Cambodian social security provider to better manage the distribution of benefits, among other things.

Long Dimanche, Cambodian ambassador to South Korea, yesterday said that better educating the 53,000 Cambodians working in South Korea was a priority. For instance, he said, “workers don’t take care about [their] insurance. Sometimes they pay it, and after a few years, they stop paying it because they think that it is not necessary . . . We need to promote it to them [so they] understand it.”

However, Moeun Tola, head of the labour rights group Central, dismissed Sam Heng’s suggestions as politicking ahead of upcoming elections. If he had really wanted to safeguard the welfare of Cambodian workers, Tola said, Samheng should have demanded that workers be allowed to join labour unions, engage in collective bargaining and leave the workplaces in the event of disputes. “When they are unhappy, they run away and become undocumented,” said Tola, a situation that leaves them vulnerable to police raids and further exploitation.

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