BANTEAY MEANCHEY — After 65 days of being held in the Banteay Meanchey provincial prison, some of the 47 detainees finally got to meet their loved ones who flew all the way from Malaysia today.
Mrs Zunita Sedini, mother of one of the detainees, said she was overwhelmed with emotion after meeting her 21-year-old son Yusuf Islam Abdul Halik for the first time, since he left for Cambodia in October last year.
“It breaks my heart seeing my son in the orange (prison uniform) shirt. Amidst the sea of detainees, my eyes were drawn straight to him as soon as I stepped into the room,” the teary-eyed mother told Khmer Times after the hour-long visit.
Sobbing, the 41-year-old added that she wished for her son and 46 others, accused of operating illegal online gambling, to come back home soon.
“These are tears of joy. My son is well taken care of here. I am very thankful to the Cambodian authority for giving the permission for us to meet our children,” she said.
Zunita, who is in close contact with other family members back home, said she will relay the news of the detainees’ wellbeing to them.
“I hugged them all today. They are all like my own children. Since most of their parents could not make it, I wanted to let them know they are loved and there are people who care for them,” she said.
The delegates, led by Malaysian parlimentarian Larry Sng Wei Shien, arrived at Siem Reap International Airport this morning before making their way straight to the detention center, some 100km away.
“They all seem healthy and fine. I told them not to worry because both Malaysian and Cambodian authorities are working closely to secure their release. I also told them that everyday there are news and updates about them – they are not forgotten,” Sng said.
In a press conference after the visit, Sng confirmed that the visit was also joined by senior Malaysian embassy officials and prison director General Um Siphan.
Sources who were also present during the visit said the detainees beamed up with joy upon seeing the delegates and they applauded with joy at the news of potential repatriation.
Sng added following his return to Malaysia, he will be meeting Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah and Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail to brief them about the condition of the detainees in Cambodia.
“We want to also seek clarity from Wisma Putra to see what actions can be taken through diplomatic channel. We are hoping for immediate release but in the event that it is prolonged, we will be making subsequent visits,” he said.
Before flying back to Malaysia tomorrow, Sng and fellow Malaysian authorities are expected to pay another visit to the detention center to also discuss further with their counterparts on repatriation efforts.
Meanwhile, during the visit, the Malaysian Embassy also brought along a doctor and a medical assistant from Beyond Boundaries Hospital to perform medical check-ups on the detainees.
“Most of them are healthy except some has contacted skin conditions like rashes and scabies but this is not worrying because it could be because of the poor hygiene habits.
“I have supplied them with the necessary medications like anti-fungal cream and paracetamol. They should be fine,” Dr Kop Roly told Khmer Times.