Embassy in Malaysia Sheltering Nationals Amid Crackdown

The Cambodian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur has seen an influx of nationals seeking help securing work documents—along with food and shelter—amid a crackdown on unregistered workers in the country, an embassy official said on Thursday.

Since July 1, authorities in Malaysia have arrested and detained more than 3,000 foreigners working in the country illegally amid a nationwide sweep of work sites, according to Malaysian media reports citing the country’s director-general of immigration, Mustafar Ali.

The reports have given the number of nationals arrested from Bangladesh, Indonesia, Burma, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines along with 643 “others” as of Tuesday.

There have been no reports of how many Cambodians have been caught up in the sweeps.

Chum Sounry, spokesman for Cambodia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, said the Cambodian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur had been instructed to find out how many nationals had been arrested from the Malaysian government. But he said the ministry had yet to hear back.

Mr. Sounry declined to answer when asked if the ministry was disappointed with the Malaysian government’s failure to provide numbers of arrested Cambodians to date, but insisted the two countries had “good cooperation.”

Nop Chanvannak, first secretary for the Cambodian Embassy in Malaysia, said he did not know how many nationals had been arrested, either.

“I know some, but I don’t know how many,” he said, declining to give even a rough estimate.

He said the embassy’s councilor for labor affairs, Nou Bunnara, was out of the office and unreachable.

Mr. Chanvannak said undocumented Cambodians working in Malaysia had been coming to the embassy since the crackdown to seek help.

“A lot of immigrants are here now…because the government of Malaysia is implementing the new law,” he said. “They’re asking for documents and for accommodation and food.”

The first secretary said the embassy was sheltering more than 20 Cambodians at the moment but did not know how many had sought help since July 1.

The Malaysian government says it gave employers months to register the hundreds of thousands of undocumented workers it believes to be working in the country, but that less than a quarter of them were made legal by the deadline.

Rights groups say most of those workers are already victims of human trafficking at the mercy of their employers and that the latest crackdown only puts them more at risk.

peter@cambodiadaily.com 

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