Malasia - Migrant workers face horrifying conditions (2012)

Gross violations of migrant workers’ rights have provoked a serious debate in Malaysia. In October, Cambodia imposed a ban on labour migration to Malaysia for domestic work following allegations of extreme abuse. According to Human Rights Watch, “Cambodian women and girls often have to surrender their passports to their agents or employers, making it harder for them to leave if they are mistreated. Many work for 14 to 21 hours a day without rest breaks or days off. And many are forcibly confined to their work places, are not given adequate food, and are physically and verbally abused. Some have been sexually abused by their employers. None of the workers Human Rights Watch interviewed said they had received their full salary.” Under Malaysian labour law, migrant domestic workers are excluded from basic protections, such as a weekly day of rest, annual leave, and limits on working hours. Amnesty International also reported that nearly 30,000 migrant workers were caned between 2005-2010 for various immigration offenses. Caning is extremely painful, leaving lasting physical scars.

On 14 February, human rights activist Charles Hector was sued for over USD 3.2 million by electronic firm Asahi Kosei (M) Sdn Bhd for defamation after he posted on his blog reports he received from Burmese migrant workers detailing violations of labor and human rights at the company. The 31 Burmese migrants, who were employed by an employment agency that supplied the workers to Asahi Kosei, were alleged to have been paid wages far lower than promised when they agreed to migrate to Malaysia and faced numerous illegal wage deductions, among other violations. The facts of the case were not in contention; rather, Mr Hector was found liable and was forced to issue a retraction because he had associated the abuses with Asahi Kosei rather than the subcontractor, even though Asahi Kosei managed the labour of the migrant workers.

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