KUCHING: The families of 47 young Malaysians believed to be detained in Cambodia are appealing to the authorities to bring them home.
Julau MP Larry Sng said the detainees, mostly Sarawakians from poor families, are victims of a human trafficking scam and are being held in a Cambodian provincial jail without trial.
“Most of them are young, aged around 18 to 20, and were promised high-paying jobs by the scammers in exchange for a few hundred US dollars.
“Upon their arrival in Cambodia, they were housed in a private home. After a few weeks, no jobs were forthcoming and they grew restless.
“Then the police came to arrest them for illegal online gaming, which they denied,” Sng told a press conference here on Thursday (Feb 7).
From the little information he has, he believes the Malaysians were held for a week in a lock-up before being transferred to a provincial jail on Dec 16.
“Some of their families have gone to Cambodia to find out where they are. They have not been brought before a court of law to be charged or remanded,” he said.
Sng said 44 of the 47 Malaysians are Sarawakians and about one-fourth of them are girls.
“We do not have the specific details but we understand they are from all parts of Sarawak. What we understand is that they were taken to Cambodia (in) staggered (journeys) by one company.
“But since they've been detained, the company has disappeared. The people involved are not picking up our phone calls so we don't have much information,” he said.
He added that the immediate priority is to enlist the assistance of Malaysia’s Foreign Ministry to obtain their release.
“I understand that Wisma Putra is looking into this matter and that the (Malaysian) embassy is aware of it.
“Members of the embassy have visited the detainees to check on their condition, but at this moment, that's as much information as we have.
“It seems they can be held up to three years without trial, so we are very concerned that they are not given due justice and also not given the opportunity to come back.
“We want to make sure that we secure their safety and welfare to bring them back,” Sng said, adding that he is working with the Sarawak Dayak Graduates Association and Sarawak Dayak Iban Association to take the matter up with the relevant authorities.
Zunita Sedini, whose 21-year-old son is among the victims, said she last heard from him about two weeks after he was believed to have been detained on Dec 11.
“I received a text from him on Dec 9, asking if I was well. After that, there was no contact from him for two weeks, so I started to get worried.
“Two weeks after Dec 11, he called me saying, ‘Mummy help us, we've been detained’. He was given only five minutes to talk.
“He said he was well but he was crying and I was also crying,” she said.
Zunita appealed to the authorities to help bring her son and the other victims back.
“He wanted to go to Cambodia to work. He told me he would come back for my birthday in January, but he didn't come back.
“I hope the authorities can bring all of them back. I pray that they are safe and well,” she said.