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65 ‘illegal’ workers arrested in Malaysia

A total of 65 Cambodian nationals – including 15 children – have reportedly been arrested and detained by Malaysian immigration police, an official at a migrant worker advocacy organisation said yesterday.

Meas Saneth, program director for the NGO Coordination of Action Research on AIDS and Mobility, said the group was arrested on Saturday.

As well as 15 children, the group included 37 female and 13 male workers, he said.

“These Cambodian people were arrested by Malaysian immigration police because they were staying and working illegally in Malaysia,” he said.

“My organisation now is working hard to contact them in order to know about their living conditions and their health.” The workers had likely been sent to Malaysia by illegal recruitment agencies that had “cheated” them, he said.

Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said yesterday that he had heard unofficial reports of the arrests, which authorities were still trying to substantiate.

“Our embassy is now working hard and contacting Malaysian authorities about this information,” he said.

He added that if Cambodian nationals had been arrested in Malaysia, the two countries would work together to repatriate the group.

“I think that if there is such a thing happening there, our embassy will handle this issue with Malaysian authorities in order to get them back to Cambodia,” he said.

Raja Saifful Ridzuwan, minister counsellor at the Malaysian embassy in Phnom Penh, was also unable to confirm the reported arrests yesterday, but said the embassy would look into the matter.

Malaysia has become an increasingly popular destination for Cambodian migrant workers, with the number of Cambodians seeking work there increasing by about four times over the past two years.

According to figures provided by the Malaysian embassy in October, a total of 20,909 Cambodians – among them 18,038 domestic workers – were given visas between January and August.
A total of 12,682 visas were issued in all of 2009, and 5,304 were issued in 2008.

However, the sharp increase has coincided with mounting concern over the welfare of Cambodian workers, fuelled by a recent spate of complaints from people who claim to have suffered abuse from Malaysian employers.

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