Cambodian officials have said that the 47 Malaysians held in Banteay Meanchey provincial prison on suspicion of running an online gambling and fraud racket would have to go through the Cambodian legal system.
The Malaysian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday issued a press release regarding the detention of its nationals at the Banteay Meanchey provincial prison since December 11.
Officials at the Malaysian embassy in Phnom Penh said the “detainees were offered jobs with an attractive pay”.
“The Embassy of Malaysia in Phnom Penh has brought this matter to the attention of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Cambodia via a diplomatic note to release the detainees,” the press release said, adding that the embassy was closely monitoring the case and providing consular assistance.
A source with knowledge of the case but who asked not to be named said 55 suspects were originally arrested in the police operation in December, including eight Chinese nationals.
The source said the Chinese nationals were later released after being found not to have been involved in the alleged crimes.
The source said the suspects were charged with several offences, including fraud and running an online gambling operation.
“They committed online fraud. Each of them had a telephone to defraud people in other countries, not Cambodia. For example, they told victims that they were the police."
“They lied to victims that a relative of theirs was in danger and so they needed to send [the suspects] money to help,” the source said.
Malaysian media reports said the suspects denied the charges and that Malaysian officials would meet with Cambodian Ministry of Justice officials this week to discuss the case.
However, ministry spokesperson Chin Malin said he did not have information on such a meeting.
Malin said that if found guilty, the suspects would either serve their sentences in Cambodia or be deported to Malaysia by agreement.
“They could be found not guilty, or if the crimes were deemed to be minor, they could be applied under immigration law and be deported."
“The Malaysian embassy can work at the diplomatic level or provide legal assistance such as lawyers to defend their citizens who are having problems in Cambodia."
“But the ultimate decision is dependent on the court, which will rule on the case based on fact, legal provision and evidence,” he said.
Malin denied media reports that the suspects were imprisoned without trial. He said legal proceedings meant a person charged with a crime could not remain free while the court investigated the case.