Eldeen Husaini Mohd Hashim, Malaysia’s ambassador to Cambodia, revealed in an interview recently that more than a hundred Malaysians working for syndicates in Cambodia have been rescued by the Malaysian embassy there since 2018.
The embassy also had to follow protocols established by the Cambodian government before these Malaysians could be transported home, so it has not been an easy task.
However, some Malaysians had turned down offers to be rescued or taken out of Cambodia.
“We have rescued many but many also don’t want to go back to Malaysia. Some of them ran away from home, some ran away from ah long (loan sharks).
“Sometimes they don’t want to tell their parents the truth.
“When the parents don’t know what to do, they create stories that their children got kidnapped and were forced to work but when we went to rescue them, they said they don’t want to go back,” said Eldeen.
He said the embassy had been working hard on this because they cared about the parents who were missing their kids.
“We are trying very hard to get them out but all have their own specific case,” Eldeen said, noting that frustrated parents tend to take their grievances to MPs, state representatives or the press without grasping the situation.
Several news agencies reported that some work scam victims have recounted horrifying tales of being brutally treated by their captors after being lured by tempting salaries.
In one instance, 16 Malaysians who took advantage of the offers and travelled to Cambodia claimed that they were coerced into joining the syndicate without compensation and threatened with electric shocks if they did not.
Eldeen emphasised that there were processes to follow and that the embassy could not simply fly the Malaysians away as soon as they were rescued.
Those who have violated Cambodian immigration laws are required to serve their sentence before they can leave the country but the Malaysian embassy will intervene when this happens.
“Some of the Malaysians came to Cambodia illegally via lorong tikus (secret passages) and were without travel documents.
“But the embassy can plead for them to be deported instead of being sent to jail,” he told The Star.
Following operations on the syndicates, the Cambodian government would transport Malaysians who had been saved to the immigration depot for an investigation and documentation.
“Once this is done, they will be sent to the embassy for the deportation process, where we will issue the Emergency Certificate and alert our police and the foreign affairs ministry,” he said.
Malaysians who need to travel back to Malaysia one way but have an expired, lost, or passport with a shorter validity period than six months are given an Emergency Certificate.
“Once everything is cleared, we will escort the Malaysians to the airport with Cambodian police,” said Eldeen.
The length of time before they can be sent home is dependent on a number of variables, including the length of time it takes for the Cambodian authorities to investigate them due to the large number of detainees at the depot, including those from other nations.
“It would also depend if the authorities suspect the person is a ringleader and if they have criminal records,” said Eldeen.
Eldeen refuted allegations made by relatives that the Malaysians housed in the Cambodian immigration depot were not receiving adequate food or legal assistance.
He claimed to have personally visited the immigration depot in Sihanoukville, where he discovered that the food was being delivered on time and that there was adequate space for residents.
Although it was rumoured that there were between 60 and 70 Malaysians in the depot, it is thought that the actual number is less.
He said that the collaboration of the Cambodian authorities was the only thing that made the operations to rescue the Malaysians possible.
“They are helping us a lot. The embassy has been communicating with the Cambodian authorities to get Malaysians out of the syndicates.
“We are also talking to other embassies such as Thailand, the Philippines, and Indonesia.
“This is a coordinated mission. We have the same problem so we talk to the authorities as a team,” he said.