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“When I go home, I will marry my sweetheart,” Malaysian detainee says

Sangeetha Amarthalingam and Raquel Bacay / Khmer Times Share:
The detainees listening to advice given by Cambodian and Malaysian authorities. KT/Mai Vireak

BANTEAY MEANCHEY: “When I go home, I will marry my sweetheart,” a dream 23-year-old Elwyn Badidang Joseph, who left his floor lamination and wallpaper pasting job in Kuching, replayed while in detention for two months.

“I felt my job was boring and figured that a change of pace would be good. I decided to leave my girlfriend behind, promising her that I will come back after saving some money for the wedding through my work here,” said Mr Joseph.

But with things turning sour at the “bogus” job, being arrested in a police raid on Dec 11 with 46 others, and charged for cheating, opening and managing illegal gambling centres, he thought perhaps he should have stayed at home.

“Now that we have been released from the detention centre, I can finally go home, and marry my girlfriend even though I have no money. It’s all I have thought about since I have been here,” he added.

Khmer Times managed to speak to some of the 47 detainees, aged between 19 and 44 in a hotel who have been “released in temporary basis” (the provincial court released them to travel home). Their charges remain on record though.

Nevertheless, they are much closer to seeing their home after months of uncertainty.

“Saya rasa lega sekarang (I feel relieved now). It is finally happening. I really can’t wait to go back,” said Iban native Michele Winston, adding that she plans “to do nothing” for a while when she goes back.

“I thought I could earn a good salary working in a hotel with only my high school certificate,” said Ms Winston, 23.

As for Gibson Golib, his heart is set on enrolling into a safety licence course and finding work offshore, closer to his home in Kuching.

“Having undergone a traumatic experience made me think about my life,” said the 22-year-old on plans to put his life back in order.

Mr Gibson, of Kelabit ethnicity, a native community in Sarawak, said throughout his two-month detention, he missed his father who advised him to think properly before leaving home.

“I don’t have a mother. She passed away when I was young. So my father is all I have. I should have listened to him, then I would not be where I am now but I was promised a job in a hotel, and I wanted to be a waiter,” he said.

For 20-year-old Eviana Nazreen Sadin, coming to Cambodia with her boyfriend, 21-year-old Yusuf Islam Abdul Halik, meant that they could visit places and save money together.

That failed to pan out but she is positive about her experience as she learnt a little bit of the Cambodian way of life and language “It is a bittersweet experience. We didn’t get what we came here for but I am glad we are fine and safe. The best thing is, I managed to pick up some Khmer language,” she said.

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