August 2012
Rescuing Domestic Worker Stranded in Malaysia

B.T. (full name withheld for privacy), a Cambodian domestic worker in Malaysia, was repatriated to her home country with the help of LICADHO, a partner-grantee of EWMI’s Program on Rights and Justice in Cambodia 2 (PRAJ 2), despite having been coerced by her Malaysian employer and a labor agency to extend her contract for an additional year.  

B.T. had registered to work as a domestic in Malaysia with the Ung Rithy Group. After training and English classes, she left for Malaysia on April 28, 2010, and for all intents and purposes, disappeared. Repeated attempts by B.T.’s mother to contact her daughter were unsuccessful, and she could not get any information about her child’s whereabouts or health. 

In Malaysia, B.T. told the local labor agency that she wanted to leave at the end of her contract. However, she was not allowed to do so and instead was coerced into signing on for another year. She finally managed to call her mother and express her desire to come back home. When her mother called the Ung Rithy Group in Cambodia, she was refused help. 

So her mother filed a complaint with the LICADHO office, requesting intervention. In June of 2012, LICADHO staff contacted the Ung Rithy Group, pressing them to take action, following up in July by repeating the demand that B.T. be allowed to return. The company represented that it would bring the young woman back in July and pay her salary. But given the poor reputation many labor agencies have earned in recent years, LICADHO staff met with the third secretary of the Cambodian embassy during a mission to Malaysia, requesting intervention in the case. 

With the embassy’s support, and the persistence of LICADHO staff, B.T. was repatriated to Cambodia on July 31. One day later, she received her $3,700 in back wages from the Ung Rithy Group.

While there have been several tragic stories of domestic workers in Malaysia, B.T. happily did not become one of them. Thanks to continued pressure from LICADHO, including discussions with Cambodian government officials in the receiving country, B.T. was reunited with her mother and obtained the full compensation she was due.

Human trafficking remains a serious issue in Cambodia. In addition to supporting the work of LICADHO, EWMI’s PRAJ 2 program works closely with government partners and other civil society organizations to address this crime through data collection, legal representation of victims, public outreach, legal training and advocacy.