A thousand Cambodian workers are due to arrive in Hong Kong later this year after Cambodia and Hong Kong yesterday inked a five-year deal to meet local demand for domestic helpers.
A delegation from Cambodia, led by Labour Minister Ith Sam Heng, made the agreement with Hong Kong’s Secretary of Labour and Welfare Stephen Sui less than two months after the Hong Kong government relaxed visa regulations for Cambodian workers, investors and students.
The Cambodia Human Resource Development Association of Hong Kong, which has been commissioned by Cambodia to train and protect the incoming workers, said the first group would land in Hong Kong by September at the earliest, upon completion of a three-month course. The association’s chairman, Simon Liu, said all the candidates hold junior high school diplomas and have previously worked in Malaysia.
While local employment agencies have expressed hope over the scheme, human rights activists are cautious. In reference to a similar pilot project with Singapore which failed, and previous cases of abuse against Cambodian workers in Malaysia, Cambodian labour rights leader Moeun Tola told the Phnom Penh Post, “[The Singapore scheme] resulted in many violations due to the language barriers and cultural difference.”
Likewise, the deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, Phil Robertson, said foreign domestic helpers had faced “a slew of abuses in Hong Kong”, including those of a violent or sexual nature, as well as withheld payment. Robertson said the government must commit to “protect rights that Cambodia has so far totally lacked in its sending of workers abroad.”
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