Between 2010 and 2012 approximately 1,600 Cambodian workers
were solicited with large up-front fees and recruited for work at Phatthana
Seafood factory (Songkhla Province, Thailand) by CDM Trading Manpower Co., Ltd,
Phatthana staff or illegal brokers operating independently.
Those workers unlawfully removed by Phatthana staff report
they were persuaded by fraudulent phone calls from Phatthana office staff,
required to pay fees of up to and exceeding 6,000 baht, and consequently
smuggled into Thailand illegally without documentation of any kind.
Recent reports indicate that Phatthana Seafood now requires
the said undocumented workers to pay 6,500 baht to obtain a passport by 7 May,
2012. If not on 15 May, 2012 workers will be terminated without repatriation.
It is estimated around 70% to 80% of undocumented workers have complied and the
remaining 20 to 30% indicate their intention to comply but note they will most
likely be unable.
These estimates imply that up to 100 workers could be
without employment, proper documentation or a means of repatriation come 15 May
Workers reported they were promised a wage of approximately
$220 - $300 per month, 6 days work per week at 8 hours per day, free
accommodation and medical benefits as well as food allowance of an unspecified
amount. In reality workers received as little 3000 baht per month ($75), no
accommodation or medical care and were forced into debt bondage arrangements
with the recruitment company and factory owners, owing as much as US$450 for
service fees and charges. Workers lived in run down, dilapidated 2.5 x 3m box
housing with up to 4 in a room. Many feared for the safety of their wives and
daughters and rape and sexual harassment were an overwhelming concern for many.
Until intervention last month, all identity documents were withheld and workers
threatened for speaking to the press. Many workers were forced to hunt for
snails and small fish washed up on the beach in order to avoid starvation and
some have been stranded at the factory since the 2010.
Workers report that currently, there are around 700
Cambodian workers remaining at Phatthana Seafood factory. Whilst a limited
number of accommodation facilities have been replaced with more secure and
appropriate dwellings, workers must now each pay between 375 and 500 baht per
month despite original guarantees from both CDM and Phatthana. Even with
mandatory increases in minimum wage and full rate pay for hours rostered but
not worked, onerous debts payable to CDM and Phatthana and substantial food an
accommodation costs continue to threaten the livelihood of Cambodian workers
employed at Phatthana.
Further, medical care is purported to be free of charge if a
worker has been employed for 6 months or more. However, workers report they are
often refused hospital treatment, merely returned to their rooms without proper
care in cases of serious and legitimate illness. They further express there are
serious difficulties with finding company translators to accompany workers to
hospitals, making adequate and effective treatment impossible.
Despite their liabilities CDM and Phatthana remain immune to
the law and their obligations to these workers whilst continuing to extort
money and labor from Cambodians without consequence.
With great concern for the health, safety and livelihood of
Cambodian workers, we strongly urge all government authorities, relevant
Ministries, international buyer Walmart and concerned organizations to demand
all fees and charges imposed by recruitment agents and employers are immediately
set aside, accommodation and adequate social security is ensured and possible
breaches of the Law on the Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual
Exploitation (2007) and Sub Decree No. 190 on the Management of the Sending of
Cambodian Workers Abroad Through Private Recruitment Agencies are investigated
and pursued to the full extent of the law.
For more information please contact:
Mr. Tola Moeun, Head of the Labor Program Unit, CLEC, +855
66 777 056.
Mr. Joel Preston, Consultant, CLEC, +855 66 777 037.
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