PHNOM PENH – Malaysian detainee Aron Naldy Muhammad Ting Abdullah, 22, who is among 47 detainees, alleges that they were promised $1,500 monthly to work in Cambodia but was instead treated like bonded slaves in Poipet, Banteay Meanchey province here.
Khmer Times has learnt that the detainees, aged between 19 and 44, including 10 women have been accused of cheating, opening and managing illegal gambling, and are awaiting prosecution.
“We do not know why we have been arrested. We hope to come home soon,” narrated the Sibu-born to a verified source over the telephone conversation on Friday.
Below is the narrative provided by the source, who cannot be named for security reasons:
“We were made to work from 8am to 4pm daily, learning on a tablet how online gambling works. We were not allowed to go out or speak to anyone outside of the house. They confiscated our phones and personal documents when we first arrived at the house.
“Although we went along with it, we did feel like something was wrong. When we asked about our salary, we were told that it would be banked into our accounts and that we can check it when we return to Malaysia during the Chinese New Year break,” Mr Aron Naldy said.
Mr Aron Naldy arrived in Siem Reap in September last year with two other friends, Mr Wong Chhung Hung and Mr Ng Chun Fei, after depositing $300, respectively, into a Malaysian bank account as payment for their passports and flight tickets.
The ordeal began when he learned about a job opening in Cambodia through a group on social messaging service WeChat.
Mr Aron Naldy, who has never left Malaysia, was keen to go to Cambodia, following the footsteps of his friends who had ventured overseas for better job opportunities.
“My friends and I arrived in Siem Reap on September 18 or 19, and were brought to a house by several Chinese nationals, where other Malaysians were already there. It was a house that had guards and we received daily instructions from some Chinese nationals who also lived there.
“We did not have to do anything else but learn online gambling. Meals were prepared for us everyday. Everything was provided including soaps, toothbrushes and towels,” he said.
On December 11, the Malaysians and eight Chinese nationals were arrested and brought to the Poipet police lock-up before being transferred to the Banteay Meanchey detention centre where they have been placed since.
However, Mr Aron Naldy claimed that he is uncertain where the Chinese nationals are detained as they are no where to be seen in the detention centre.
On how their days are spent in the detention center, he said: “We don’t do anything apart from sit around, talk and watch people play football. We are given two meals a day. Some of us sleep in dormitory-style cells while others like me share a room with two others. I am lucky to have a pillow and mattress to sleep on”.
Mr Aron Naldy said although they are well-treated, most are worried and miss home badly.
“I only ask for one thing. Please can you say when we can go back to Malaysia? Please bring us home,” he pleaded.
The Malaysian Foreign Affairs Ministry, in a statement on Thursday, said it was only informed about the matter verbally by the Banteay Meanchey provincial police on December 28 last year although the Malaysians were detained on Dec 11. Malaysian Embassy officers here have since made a consular visit to the detainees.
According to Kuala Lumpur-based New Straits Times, Malaysian Embassy Charge d’Affaires Ruzaimi Mohamad would meet with Cambodian Justice Ang Vong Vathana to understand the situation, and secure the release of the detainees.
Meanwhile, a Cambodian immigration official, who declined identity, said: “Usually these are deportable cases. However, in this case, Banteay Meanchey police carried out the raid without the immigration police’ involvement”.
Over in Malaysia, Mr Aron Naldy’s father, Muhammad Abdullah, 61, said he had no knowledge of his son’s travel to Cambodia.
“My heart is so heavy. He did not tell me he was going to Cambodia, only that he wanted to visit Vietnam. I have not heard from him since he left. Please help to bring him home,” the lorry driver told Khmer Times from Sarawak, East Malaysia.