ALOR SETAR: For the past five to six months, 23 Cambodians have had to wake up before dawn to pluck ketum leaves, guided only by torchlight.
Paid meagre salaries, the group, including three children, was brought in illegally to work in a ketum plantation and housed in squalid conditions.
Yesterday, Kedah police rescued the Cambodians from the plantation in Kuala Nerang here and seized 1,025kg of ketum leaves worth about RM20,000 during an operation codenamed Ops Pintas Naka.
Led by ASP Saudi Abdul Rahman, the team, comprising members of the Anti-Trafficking In Persons and Smuggling of Migrants (Atipsom) Taskforce and Serious Crime D9, moved in on the plantation some 15 minutes after midnight.
Kedah CID chief Senior Asst Comm Mior Faridalathrash Wahid said those rescued were 11 men and nine women, aged between 25 and late 30s, while the three children were aged between five and 10.
“They were without working permits or valid travel documents when we found them. We believe they have been trafficked and exploited at the farm.
“We also picked up a 46-year-old local Siamese man for investigation,” he said
SAC Mior Faridalathrash said the man had admitted that the foreigners were hired to harvest ketum leaves and for other plantation jobs.
“Initial investigation revealed that the sale of ketum leaves could reach RM60,000 a month.
“The plantation has been in operation for five to six months and the ketum leaves are meant to be exported to a neighbouring country,” he said at Padang Terap police district headquarters.
SAC Mior Faridalathrash believed that there could be other such activities at villages in the district and other parts of the state.
In SEPANG, employees of Malaysia Aviation Group recently attended an extensive four-day training by the International Organisation for Migrants (IOM) to identify and report any sign of human trafficking.
Facilitated by the International Organisation for Migration- Human Trafficking expert Peter Bryant, the training was supported by regulatory bodies, including the Attorney-General’s Chambers, Department of Women Development and the police.
In a statement, the group said it had trained over 4,000 employees comprising flight attendants and ground handlers since 2017 to identify potential human trafficking victims and to notify authorities.