Cambodian teen released from custody in Penang and reunited with family back home

PETALING JAYA: A 16-year old Cambodian girl has been released from detention in Penang and has been reunited with her family back home, says Tenaganita.

Tenaganita co-director Aegile Fernandez (pic) said that the girl, identified only as Mon, was brought to Malaysia to work when she was 14 years old, with the promise of receiving an education and a paying job to support her family in Cambodia.

Instead, she was threatened, beaten, and forced to work multiple jobs without pay for two years.

"For the past ten days, Tenaganita has been trying to secure her release from Immigration detention, after the deputy public prosecutor chose not to pursue her case under the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling Act," she noted.

She added that the Georgetown magistrate ordered her to be detained in the Juru Immigration detention facility since late March.

Aegile said that the girl's plight was highlighted by Malaysians on social media, which caught the attention of elected representatives, including Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, deputy Hannah Yeoh, as well as the Majlis Anti-Pemerdagangan Orang (Mapo), who took action to secure Mon's release.

"We (also) thank Batu Kawan MP Kasthuriraani Patto and Juru assemblyman Gooi Hsiao-Leung for responding to our alert," she said in a statement on Saturday (April 6).

Tenaganita also questioned why the DPP chose not to address the exploitation of Mon – who is a minor – and why the magistrate did not exercise its power to ensure that the "best interests of the child" was taken into account.

Aegile said Tenaganita reiterated its call made over the years to immediately end the immigration detention of all children, and of all victims of trafficking and other forms of exploitation.

"Detention is violent – it is no place for a child. We remind the government that alternatives to detention have been proposed to the government for the past few years," she said, noting that the Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, under the Immigration Act 1959/63, has the power to immediately exempt children, trafficked persons, and other vulnerable persons from detention.

Tenaganita also emphasised that Mon's case is "unfortunately not unique".

"Countless migrants and refugees who have been victims of exploitation, including slavery, have been locked up and detained in appalling conditions – and that will continue unless there is a significant commitment at all levels of government to recognise the human rights and dignity of all children, of migrants and refugees.

"We ask fellow Malaysians to keep supporting us in making this shift happen," she said.


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