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Trafficked women back home

Two victims of human trafficking returned to Phnom Penh from Malaysia yesterday, speaking of a hellish ordeal that began when a broker offered them jobs at a shopping centre where they would supposedly earn about US$700 per month.

The two women, aged 28 and 30, identified themselves by the pseudonyms “Srey Nith” and “Phalla” during a press conference yesterday at the office of local NGO Coordination of Action Research on AIDS and Mobility Cambodia.

“The brokers arranged for us to fly to Malaysia and continue to [the state of] Sabah to be workers at the shopping centre, but when we arrived there, we were taken to work at a karaoke bar and they confiscated our passports,” Srey Nith said, adding that they had arrived there in September.

“We worked at the karaoke bar for three months, and sometimes the employer tried to force us to have sex with him and with the clients, but we pretended to be sick and were able to escape from the sexual harassment.”

Srey Nith and Phalla said they were arrested by immigration police after having worked at the karaoke bar for three months and were detained at the Jabatan Immigration Centre until their departure for Phnom Penh this week.

Ya Navuth, executive director of CARAM-Cambodia, said that the Interior Ministry’s anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection department, the Cambodian Ambassador to Malaysia and CARAM-Malaysia had begun negotiations to free the women with the Malaysian immigration department after receiving complaints from their parents.

“It was good luck for the victims that they were be able to communicate with their parents and that their parents filed complaints,” he said.

There have been about 200 female Cambodian victims of human trafficking rescued from Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand since 2000, Ya Navuth said. He added that victims were often trafficked after they married foreigners or were lured to foreign countries by false job offers.

Chiv Phally, deputy director of the anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection department at the Interior Ministry, said yesterday that police hoped to build on the success of the rescue by arresting their traffickers.

“We will interview the victims in order to collect information that will lead to the arrest of the brokers, and we will bring them to trial,” he said.

About 95 percent of all Cambodian labourers who go abroad do so through illegal channels, according to statistics quoted at an inter-governmental conference on migrant workers in Phnom Penh last month.

The lack of safeguards for migrant workers in Malaysia in particular has been thrust into the spotlight in recent months following a spate of alleged human rights abuses, including rape and forced detention, that have allegedly befallen Cambodian workers in the neighbouring country.

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