A friendly little woman, 30-year-old, Ros Thearith, whose hometown is in Neak Leoung, has left there to work on a Diamond Island construction site since 2013. She earns 18,000 KHR per day which equals US$4.50. Thearith has six siblings; three of whom work as construction workers as well.
Meeting on the Diamond Island site but away from where she sleeps and workplace, Thearith described how difficult her type of job is – the nature of the job itself as well as the working conditions. “The work is much heavier than a garment factory job. And it is different from jobs in other sectors, for we don’t earn unless we work. My workplace is strict”, said Thearith, adding that “if you want to continue working, don’t talk, be ignorant and just do your job.” While talking about this, Thearith mentioned that she used to work at the Thai-Cambodian border in the Rong Kleur market. She thought about going to work in Thailand again; however, the living expenses are similar when compared with here. So, she decided to work locally instead as it is closer to her family. After working eight hours a day, Thearith still works overtime every night from 5.30pm to 8.30pm. She earns half of her daytime wage extra, which helps add more to her savings. Exhausted, she comes home where she is confronted by chores before going to bed. “It’s my duty as a wife. Honestly, I am tired too, but it’s what I must do. If I don’t do it, then who’s going to do it?”
No matter how difficult her life, she said she must endure for the sake of her family and two children whom she left at her hometown.
“One fish, I eat the head for lunch and leave the tail for dinner. If I don’t do that, I cannot save enough money to send to my children back home. I have to be stingy for the sake of my whole family.”
Once or twice per week, she goes grocery shopping in Chbar Ompov market. She and her sister share the food costs since they’re living together. Sometimes, they keep the cooked food stored in a jar because they don’t have a fridge, and when they want to eat they take it out and warm it up.
When asked if she wants to work on construction sites for the rest of her life, she answered, “I am not sure. I may go back to my hometown to open a small business when I am a bit older. I am trying hard now for the future of my two children. I want them to be educated, unlike their parents working on the construction site. I want them to work in comfortable workplaces.”
Ros Thearith remains positive. She said, “I am determined to walk forward even if I have to work very hard and my type of job is very difficult.” Thearith’s final request to the government and the construction companies are to raise wages for construction workers, provide more rights for them — as much as garment workers — and provide written work contracts as well.