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Malaysian detainees on first flight out tomorrow

Sangeetha Amarthalingam and Raquel Bacay / Khmer Times Share:
Police and military personnel guard the entrance to the hotel housing the detainees KT/Mai Vireak

BANTEAY MEANCHEY: Emergency travel documents for eight out of 47 Malaysian detainees, freed after 65 days of detention in the provincial prison, are being hastened to make it in time for the first flight out to Kuala Lumpur from Siem Reap tomorrow.

Malaysian Embassy consular staff have been working since early this morning to complete the paperwork including getting their photos and fingerprints so that all 47 detainees can catch the AirAsia flight at 8.30am.

In Malaysia, the Foreign Affairs Ministry has been working closely with its Transport Ministry and AirAsia to secure seats for all the detainees.

“We hope to bring all of them home together, which is why the Malaysian Embassy in Cambodia is very busy trying to get the papers ready for travel tomorrow,” said a source close to the matter.

The detainees, whose charges relating to illegal online gambling operations, were dropped after the intervention of Prime Minister Hun Sen, who learnt that they were victims of a job agency syndicate.

In a statement yesterday, the Malaysian foreign affairs ministry thanked Mr Hun Sen, his deputy Prak Sokhonn for the personal attention given to the matter, and the cooperation given by several Cambodian ministries.

It also valued the close cooperation by Malaysia Member of Parliament Larry Sng, who led a team of Malaysians including the parents of the detainees in Cambodia last week, and the Sarawak government in the early release of the detainees.

Meanwhile, when contacted by Khmer Times, Cambodian Minister in Prime Minister’s Department Osman Hassan, believed to be in the province to assist with the repatriation, said the detainees are fine.

Yesterday, the detainees aged between 19 and 44, including 10 women, were released from the detention centre and treated to a sumptuous dinner in Banteay Meanchey, a transit town close to the border of Thailand.

Photos of their day out showed them enjoying a course meal, dressed in casual clothes and posing for selfies with grins and thumbs up sign, somewhat capturing the joyful mood.

On Dec 11, the Malaysians, 43 of them from East Malaysia and the remainder from Peninsular Malaysia, who lived in two separate houses in Poipet, about an hour from here, were arrested together with eight Chinese nationals in a raid by the police.

The Malaysians had arrived in batches in Cambodia after being lured by a $1,500 monthly salary. However, upon arrival, their phones and personal documents were confiscated, and were not allowed out of the house.

According to Sibu-born Aron Naldy Muhammad Ting Abdullah, 22, from Sarawak, they were made to work from 8am to 4pm daily, learning how online gambling works, on a tablet.

Now at the tail-end of a two-month ordeal, the group resides temporarily in a hotel here whose entrance is heavily guarded by the police and military. Despite that, a few detainees were seen chatting, unperturbed, at the porch area, seemingly happy as the hours fade away, bringing them closer to their journey home.

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