Sihanoukville’s Unpaid Chinese Workers

It was reported in Chinese media yesterday that nine workers stood on a high-rise construction site in Sihanoukville and said they would jump if they didn’t get their wages. 

The banner read something along the lines of “Malicious arrears of wages, selling blood, we want our wives and children and to go home”

People managed to persuade aggrieved laborers not to do anything too hasty, come down and find someone to solve the problem.


Using their lives as a threat to fight for the wages they deserve, seemed to be their final option. But these nine workers are only a small part of the Chinese construction workers who are owed salary in the city.


After the Angkor Times reported a few days ago that Chinese construction workers were owed wages, others kept contacting reporters saying they had the same experience.


More than 20 people have claimed that there they are workers here who are unpaid, and these are the ones who have come forward. How many migrant workers are left in arrears?

Although there are no specific statistics, this is by no means a small group.


Xiao Ai, a Sichuanese born in 1989, came to Cambodia in April this year. The children in his family are all in primary school. “I heard from friends that Cambodia’s wages are much higher than domestic ones, so came to Westport.”he said.

When working in his hometown, Xiao Ai’s monthly salary is about 6,000 yuan ($860), while in Sihanoukville, the monthly salary is about 13,000 yuan ($1,865). Of course, the premise is that you can get your own salary. Xiao Ai has not made any money, because all living expenses and tools used for work were paid from his own pocket, and now owes more than 100,000 yuan ($14,341).

Most Chinese construction workers who come to work in Cambodia are either introduced by an agent or by a friend, with the majority through agents.

Yu Ting (a pseudonym) has been an intermediary for nearly 5 years. Last year, his company started to connect with some Cambodian companies and introduced domestic workers to work in Cambodia. He said the company generally charge 6000 to 7,000 ($860-1000) in agency fees, including workers’ insurance (medical, accident, work injury insurance) and one-way tickets to Cambodia, and sign cooperation agreements and labor contracts with workers.


However, some workers are not clear about these rules. For example, a man who is owed four months’ salary came through an agency introduction, but said that the agency fee of 6,500 yuan only included air tickets from Guangzhou to Phnom Penh. No contracts have been signed.

Yu Ting’s company introduced dozens of people to Cambodia last year, and the construction companies they worked with did some research beforehand, “all are good companies.” But there are also cases of arrears of wages. Yu Ting said that a state-owned enterprise that owed wages had about 80 workers at the construction site, most of whom were introduced by intermediaries. 

After the construction site was suspended, the company sent some workers away and gave 200 US dollars to return to China, but the remaining wages were not settled.

“Construction companies withhold passports and do not pay wages. Workers have been insisting on payment in early November. The company has been in arrears. Later in November, they paid for their own living expenses. The workers are sick and have no money, they (the company) don’t care who they are, they just don’t pay. These migrant workers have earned money. There are 80-year-olds in their family and children (who) are studying.”


“The only way these Chinese construction workers can find their rights is to pull out the banners, but for the contractor and construction company, as long as they are invisible, what effect will they have on them?”

As the Chinese New Year approaches, some workers will chose to stay in Sihnaoukville and live on a site that had been closed. Dozens of people were crowded into a hut.

Wen Qi ‘Angkor Times’

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