Cambodia plans to send up to 5,000 of workers to Kuwait. The risks of serious abuses is making the plan controversial. Sineat Yon and I looked into it for UCANews.

Ary Ramsan wipes away tears as she recalls her time working as a housemaid in Saudi Arabia.Three years ago, the 24-year-old Cham Muslim, a minority that has lived in Cambodia for generations, migrated to the Middle East, where she was exploited from her first day at work.

“They sent me to a family with 11 children. I worked for 15 to 16 hours per day, and I wasn’t paid anything,” she told ucanews.com.

When she decided to complain, she was sent to another family. Again she had to work from early in the morning until late at night. Again she didn’t receive her salary. She couldn’t handle it anymore.

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Cambodians in Battambang province often have no other option than to migrate to neighboring Thailand to find a job. The impact is huge, with families being torn apart. My story for UCANews.

Yu Ya with her son and mother. Photo: Ate Hoekstra

Yu Ya doesn’t really want to go Thailand. She would much rather stay at home to look after her 1-year-old son. But the Cambodian woman feels like there’s no other option.

“There’s no job for me here. We only have a rice field and a small shop to sell rice soup for breakfast. That’s not enough to make a living,” she says in Bavel, a rural district in Battambang Province.

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Despite some progress, many migrant workers continue to be abused and exploited in Thailand’s fishing industry. I looked into it for UCANews.

Drying fish in Cambodia. Photo: Ate Hoekstra

It was in the late evening of Sept. 27 last year when Zeha Pourng set out to sea. The Cambodian migrant worker was all by himself and was given the task to attract fish with a small light boat to a fishing vessel of a Thai fishing company that cannot be named for legal reasons. Zeha had done the work before, but this evening he got caught up in a storm in the Gulf of Thailand.

What exactly happened to 28-year-old Zeha is still a mystery. Eight days after that stormy night, his boat was found near the island of Koh Samet. The fisherman’s body was never found.

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Migranten uit Laos, Cambodja en Myanmar spelen al jaren een belangrijke rol in de Thaise economie. Maar uitbuiting ligt op de loer. Mijn verhaal voor Trouw.

Cambodjaanse migranten in Bangkok. Foto: Ate Hoekstra

Ze werken onder meer in de bouw, in de visserij en in de horeca. Ze maken kantoorgebouwen schoon, legen overvolle vuilnisbakken en werken ellenlange dagen in fabrieken. Waar je ook bent in Thailand, overal kom je migranten tegen.

Chay Smith (28) is één van hen. De uit Taunggyi, Burma, afkomstige Smith werkt als verkoper in de Platinum Fashion Hall, één van de vele winkelcentra in Bangkok. “Ik ben in Thailand omdat ik hier een beter salaris verdien dan in Burma”, vertelt Smith tussen kledingrekken vol hippe spijkerbroeken. “In Burma zou ik misschien 150 baht (3,89 euro) per dag verdienen. Hier krijg ik iedere maand 8.000 baht (207 euro).”

Lees verder bij Trouw.

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