A Malaysian man who was stranded in Cambodia for 24 years has finally returned home, arriving in Kota Kinabalu at 11:30am yesterday.
Mohd Zulkifli Jerfri, 54, was left stranded in Cambodia, after the logging company that he was contracted to work for, shut down suddenly. The bosses absconding along with Mohd Zulkifli’s identification, leaving him effectively unable to leave lacking the proper paperwork.
He had arrived in 1993, as part of a team of 14 other Malaysians who were contracted to work for a Malaysia-owned timber company. When the political situation destabilized, the company shut down operations, giving little thought to their stranded employees.
The years that followed were incredibly difficult; Mohd Zulkifli moved from forest to forest in the Koh Kong province, chopping wood along the way for pittance pocket change that nonetheless allowed him to survive.
His attempt to return to Malaysian in 2002 ended with Mohd Zulkifli bankrupt, having spent all of his money during the long process and stay in Phnom Penh. He then resigned himself to never seeing Malaysia again, returned to the jungle and continued living meagerly to get by.
Two months ago, with the assistance of the incumbent Sultan of Perlis, Raja Muda Perlis, Tuanku Syed Faizuddin Putra Ibni Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Jamalullail, and his private secretary. The were able to help him file the necessary paperwork to get his MyKad. MyKad is the Malaysian ID card that came into circulation in 2001, taking over from the old identification cards that had been in use since colonial rule. Malaysia is rife with cases of many of its citizens without a MyKad, either lost in bureaucratic limbo due to insufficient paperwork, or subject to unfortunate oversights during filing, or even political debate of legitimacy to reside in the country.
He travelled from Koh Kong via car and motorbike to the Bukit Kayu Hitam border between Thailand and Malaysia, and stayed with friends before making the trip back home to Tambisan, Lahad Datu, Sabah.
“All I want to do at this moment is to spend time with my family. I do not want to think of anything else, including my future plans,” said Mohd Zulkifli.
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