Wrongfully imprisoned

A Cambodian garment worker in Malaysia, working at a Nike supplier, was put in jail as soon as she (alledgedly) failed a health test.

On 31 October 2013, a 19-year-old Cambodian migrant garment worker in Malaysia who was jailed since early September, while suffering from an undisclosed illness, because she did not have appropriate work visa paperwork was released. The garment worker Sry Ratha was was arrested by immigration police in Malaysia in September after Honsin Apparel Sdn Bhd - the Nike supplier that employed her - sent her on a bus from Malaysia back to Cambodia after failed health screenings resulted in the revocation of Ratha's work visa.

CCC partners, the Cambodian Community Legal Education Center (CLEC) stated that Sry Ratha arrived at work on 14 July, 2011 at Honsin Apparel Sdn. Bhd. in Batu Pahat, where she has been working ever since. Sry Ratha reportedly did not pass her annual health test conducted by Fomena Sdn. Bhd. However the reason why Sry Ratha failed her health test remains unclear as she was never provided with any documentation and it does not appear that she has any communicable disease that should lead to detention or deportation. Sry Ratha  had left Cambodia in good health and had been working and living in Malaysia for two years already. As a result of this alleged failure of the health check, her work permit was canceled before arrangement for her return to Cambodia was made.

On September 9, 2013 Sry Ratha together with Honsin Apparel management contacted the authorities in person to obtain documents to allow her to return to Cambodia, clearly demonstrating that she had no intention to break the law by remaining in Malaysia after the cancellation of her work permit. Despite this Sry Ratha was immediately arrested and was held in prison for over three months. According to CLEC, this action is a clear example of the type of persecution and danger that awaits Cambodian migrant workers in Malaysia – and a further example of how the respective governments have failed to put in place the proper safeguards to
ensure safe employment for Cambodians in Malaysia.

Honsin Apparel Sdn Bhd is one of 22 contract factories in Malaysia affiliated with Nike, employing 8,255 workers, about three-quarters of them migrants. Nearly all of the Nike contract factories in Malaysia, including Honsin Apparel Sdn Bhd, produce apparel for export.

More info on the case at the website of CLEC


Background: Migrant workers in Malaysia

Malaysia has around 2.3 million documented migrant workers. While the Malaysian constitution states that “All Persons are equal before the law and is entitled to equal protection of the law” Malaysia has introduced legislation that in its implementation discriminates against migrant workers.

For example migrants have to pay extra for health care, and face widespread wage deductions and discrimination in wage payments.

Discrimination also occurs to migrant workers when Malaysian officials fail to prevent or facilitate the wrongful deduction from wages of migrant workers; like the deduction of recruitment agency fees/payments and accommodation, all of which requires not just consent of the workers but also the permission from the Malaysian government.

Malaysia’s failure is the omission to act against this practice, or the giving of permission irrespective of the fact that the worker disagrees.