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Maid in Malaysia: a story of beatings, abuse

Lindsay Murdoch

Cambodian maid Orn Eak, 28, with her son Ho Bora, 5. Orn Eak was abused for almost two years by her Malaysian employer.

BEATEN, starved and treated as a slave in a Kuala Lumpur apartment, Cambodian maid Orn Eak says a one-metre snake ended her almost-two-year nightmare in Malaysia.

”When the snake crawled into my employer’s apartment she blamed me and kicked me out,” says Orn Eak, 28, one of thousands of Cambodian domestic workers who have been exploited and abused in Malaysia. ”I got the blame for everything, including the death of my employer’s elderly mother,” she says.

Orn Eak’s body is covered in scars from beatings by a Kuala Lumpur woman who employed her through a Cambodia employment agency in early 2010. Single with a five-year-old son, Orn Eak says she joined 30,000 other young Cambodian women and girls working as maids in Malaysia because her mother was struggling to survive in their village in Kompong Thom province.

In Kuala Lumpur, Orn Eak had no days off and worked from dawn into the early hours of the next morning caring for her employer’s disabled mother. She says she was frequently beaten and often hungry.

The mistreatment worsened after the old woman died in hospital. ”I missed my son and mother very much, but I knew I had to keep working for them,” she says.

But her mother, Ee Tha, 55, says she received only two payments in almost two years from her daughter’s Malaysian employer totalling $US270 ($A262). The employer deducted Orn Eak’s flight home from her salary, which was supposed to be $US180 a month.

When Orn Eak arrived back in Phnom Penh in November a woman picked her up at the airport and took her to the employment agency.

”I told the story about the snake to a director … Five men came into the room and beat me … they pushed my head into a glass door and kicked me on the ground,” she says.

Ee Tha received a message to come to Phnom Penh to take her daughter home.

”When I saw that my daughter’s face and body were cut and bruised my heart dropped,” Ee Tha says. After Ee Tha refused to leave the employment agency’s office with her daughter until she was given the money she was owed, a director finally handed over $1200 – meaning Orn Eak earned only $1470 for nearly two years’ work, half what had been promised.

Social workers have verified her claims of abuse. Nine Cambodian domestic workers died in Malaysia in 2011, according to human rights organisations.

Malaysian opposition MP Charles Santiago has accused the Malaysian government and police of ”totally disrespecting” laws by conducting only cursory investigations into the deaths.

Human Rights Watch says common abuses include excessive work hours with no rest days, lack of food and irregular or non-payment of salaries.

Many have reported sexual abuse, restrictions of movements and bans on contact with other maids.

A Cambodian government ban on sending maids to Malaysia has been ignored by unscrupulous recruitment agencies.

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