After 65 days of being held in Banteay Meanchey provincial prison, some of the 47 Malaysians accused of fraud and running an illegal gambling operation in Poipet city finally got to meet their loved ones yesterday.
A source who’s familiar with the 47 Malaysians plight said emotions ran high when family members met their detained loved ones.
“At first, the family members could only look at the detainees from across the room, but after a quick deliberation, Cambodian officials allowed them to have one-on-ones,” the source said, noting that only a handful of family members were able to afford the trip.
Zunita Sedini, mother of detainee Yusuf Islam Abdul Halik, said she was overwhelmed with emotion when she first caught sight of her son.
“It breaks my heart seeing my son in an orange jumpsuit. Amidst other detainees, my eyes were drawn straight to him as soon as I stepped in the room,” Ms Zunita said. “These are tears of joy. My son is well taken care of here. I am very thankful to Cambodian authorities for giving us permission to meet our children.”
Ms Zunita said she is in touch with other detainees’ family members back home and will relay news to them.
“I hugged them all today. They were like my own children. Since most of the 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 Malaysian nationals, aged 19 to 44, have been imprisoned since they were arrested following a raid on two rented homes in the city in December, when authorities cracked down on an illegal gambling operation.
Malaysian lawmaker Larry Sng Wei Shien, who accompanied the families, arrived at Siem Reap International Airport yesterday morning before travelling about 100 kilometres to the provincial prison.
“They all seemed healthy and fine. I told them not to worry because both Malaysian and Cambodian authorities are working closely to secure their release,” Mr Sng said. “I also tried to comfort them by saying that everyday there are news and updates about them – they are not forgotten.”
In a press conference following the meeting, Mr Sng said he was accompanied by senior Malaysian embassy officials and provincial prison director General Um Siphan.
Mr Sng added that following his return to Malaysia, he will meet with Foreign Affairs Minister Saifuddin Abdullah and Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail to brief them about the condition of the 47 detainees.
“We want to also seek clarity from the Foreign Affairs Ministry to see what actions can be taken through a diplomatic channel,” he said. “We are hoping for immediate release, but in the event that it is prolonged, we will be making subsequent visits.”
Before returning to Malaysia tomorrow, Mr Sng and family members of the 47 Malaysian detainees are expected to return for another visit to the prison to discuss repatriation efforts.
Additionally, the Malaysian embassy enlisted the services of a medical team from the Hospital Beyond Boundaries to perform medical check-ups on the detainees.
“Most of them are healthy, but some have contracted skin conditions like rashes and scabies, but it’s nothing to worry about,” Doctor Kop Roly said. “It could be because of poor hygiene habits in prison.”
Dr Roly said apart from that, some of the detainees complained about headaches and muscle pain.
“I have supplied them with the necessary medications like anti-fungal cream and paracetamol,” he said. “They should be fine.”
The fate of the 47 is still unknown. No trial date has been set. They have yet to be charged. Talks between the two countries on securing their freedom are steadily on-going.