A Cambodian maid who reportedly gave birth in prison to a child conceived after she was kidnapped and raped in Malaysia, returned with her baby and 11 other alleged victims of vicious abuse yesterday.
Pha Lina/Phnom Penh Post
One of the 12 maids who returned home from Malaysia yesterday, where they claimed they were physically abused and raped.
The sobbing, visibly traumatised women arrived at Phnom Penh International Airport yesterday, one in a wheelchair because she was too weak to walk.
At least two had escaped attempted rapes while others were beaten and worked almost non-stop before they were thrown in prison as illegal immigrants, rights groups Licadho and the Cambodian Legal Education Centre said yesterday.
An 18-year-old victim recounted how she was repeatedly raped over a two-month period by a man after escaping from an abusive employer about 10 months ago, and then arrested when police raided the perpetrator’s house because her passport had been confiscated.
“She stayed in prison for seven months…the police kept her in prison until she delivered the baby,” he said, adding she was allowed to give birth in a medical facility before being taken back to prison.
When another of the women, who escaped an attempted rape, took the matter to a Malaysian court, she was promised legal support by the Cambodian embassy which never materialised and was thrown in prison for immigration violations, he said.
Officials from the Cambodian embassy in Malaysia were not available for comment.
Article 25 of Malaysia’s 2007 Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act protects victims of trafficking from criminal prosecution for immigration offences, though in practice these provisions are frequently not applied.
Muhammad Sha’Ani Bin Abdullah, a commissioner at the independent Malaysia Human Rights Commission, said foreign trafficking victims were “not in safe hands” if they went to his country’s police, which treated them like criminals.
“We would actually recommend that police are cut out of these matters. The Human Rights Commission is very unhappy about the situation, with repeated denials by police but repeated incidences of criminal activity,” he said.
Orn Srey Neang, 24, from Kampong Speu province, said it was like hell working for her employer, who let her sleep for only three hours per day.
“They ordered me to work so much. There was no time for resting or eating. I only ate spoiled food each day. I am also human, so why they did they give me spoiled food? I could not endure,” she said.
Bowing her head and crying, Chan Thy, 23, thanked the government, and their NGO partners – the International Organisation for Migration and the International Red Cross – for saving her from an employer and agency that hadn’t paid a cent of her salary.
“I had no rights. They considered me as a slave,” she said.
Chhiv Phally, deputy of the Ministry of Interior’s anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection department, said the victims were now being interviewed by police and would soon return to their families.
“During interviews, they said they had escaped from their employer’s house after labour abuses,” he said, urging Cambodian girls not to rush into job opportunities abroad.