KUCHING: The 47 Malaysians freed from detention in Cambodia have returned home to be reunited with their families on Sunday (Feb 17).
Among them, 40 Sarawakians and three Sabahans arrived on a chartered JC International Airlines flight from Siem Reap which landed at about 2.15pm at Kuching International Airport on Sunday.
Accompanying them were members of a Sarawak government delegation led by Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Minister Datuk Seri Fatimah Abdullah.
Tears flowed as the former detainees were met by their family members.
Marsita Mohammad, 48, wept as she hugged her daughter Nur Ridwana Syahzani, 21.
"I was so happy when I heard that they had been released. Now that I have seen her with my own eyes, I am even more happy," Marsita said.
Mark Rogers, 24, was carried off the plane into a wheelchair as he had suffered a boil on his left knee.
He was subsequently brought to hospital for treatment.
His sister Maria Goretti, 33, said she was very relieved to see him back home safely.
She said Mark previously worked on the Pan-Borneo highway project in Kuching before going to Cambodia.
"He said he was leaving for a job with a friend, but he didn't say where he was going. The last time he contacted me was at the end of November, and I didn't hear from him after that.
"Then in February, a friend came to the house late at night after seeing the news of the detainees in Cambodia, and asked if Mark was among them.
"I was surprised to find out that he was in Cambodia, as I really had no idea he was there," Maria said.
Meanwhile, Fatimah said the chartered flight from Siem Reap was arranged and paid for by the state government.
She said five of the Sarawakians who returned would travel back to Sibu, while the Sabahans would fly to Kota Kinabalu on Sunday night.
Fatimah also thanked the Malaysian and Cambodian governments for facilitating the release of the detainees, adding that Special Duties Minister in the Cambodian Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Othsman Hassan had been a great help.
"We're very glad to be able to bring them back safely. The key to our success was the care and concern showed by the state government in sending myself and Santubong MP Datuk Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar to Cambodia," she said.