The government’s long-standing ban on Cambodian women working as maids in Malaysia looks set to finally be lifted by the end of the month.
Prime Minister Hun Sen introduced the ban in 2011 amid concern over the working conditions faced by the women, including 20-hour work days, starvation, verbal and physical assaults.
A meeting in Phnom Penh between the Labour Minister Ith Samheng and Malaysia’s Minister of Human Resources, Datuk Richard Riot Jaem, agreed to implement a deal signed by the governments in late 2015 and end the ban “later this month”.
When Mr Hun Sen imposed the ban it was estimated at least 300,000 Cambodian women were working as maids in Malaysia.
The Labour Ministry said a working party would finalise an agreement relating to correct recruitment, training and employment conditions by the end of May.
Mr Samheng went in to the closed-door meeting welcoming Malaysia’s open-minded approach to resolving the thorny issue. “This will contribute to the collaboration between our countries, which is already good,” he said.
However, human rights activist Moeun Tola was sceptical, and said there was still no evidence of any improvement in the maids’ working conditions.
“Our maids are still being overworked, either by having to do more than one job or being made to work up to 20 hours a day,” Mr Tola, the executive director of Centre for the Alliance of Labour and Human Rights alleged.