Representatives from the Malaysian embassy in Phnom Penh are scheduled to meet the Cambodian Justice Ministry’s representatives to secure freedom for the Malaysians soon. Courtesy Pix

KUALA LUMPUR: The 47 Malaysians detained in Cambodia since December are set to be released soon, a senior officer in the country was reported to have said.

Cambodia’s Banteay Meanchey Provincial Director Um Siphan said officials were making preparations to release the Malaysians who were detained on suspicion of running an illegal gambling operation there.

However, it has since emerged they were actually victims of a syndicate who had lured them to Cambodia on the pretext of a lucrative paying job.

RFA’s Khmer Service quoted Um Siphan as confirming that the group of 37 men and 10 women would be released soon although he could not specify an exact date.

“I don’t have details but they won’t be detained for a long time.

“They were very cooperative with us in jail and managing them was fairly easy,” Um Siphan said.

It was reported that representatives from the Malaysian embassy in Phnom Penh are scheduled to meet the Cambodian Justice Ministry’s representatives to secure freedom for the Malaysians soon.

The Malaysian team would be led by deputy head of mission Ruzaimi Mohamad, and would meet with a delegation led by Cambodian Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana.

“The minister has agreed to meet next week and we are in the midst of confirming the date of the meeting.

“We will seek clarification on what happened.

“The meeting will discuss the case — who, when, what and how this could have happened, as well as finding a way to bring the Malaysians home.

“The Foreign Ministry, as we speak, is trying to get those arrested out of Cambodia as soon as possible,” the New Straits Times reported today.

The Malaysian embassy was informed of the arrest by the Banteay Mancheay police — where the Malaysians were detained — on Dec 28, more than two weeks after their arrests on Dec 11.

Malaysia has since sent a diplomatic note seeking the release of the 47 to the Cambodian Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Ministry.

Based on Cambodian news reports, there were 55 people detained — 47 from Malaysia and eight from China.

The Malaysians, including nine women, were detained on Dec 11 in Poipet, Banteay Mancheay, 400km from the Cambodian capital, for allegedly being members of an international online gambling syndicate.

However, the Malaysian embassy in Cambodia found that the Malaysians, aged between 19 and 44, and mostly from Sabah and Sarawak, had been waiting for legitimate jobs while in Cambodia.

They had been offered lucrative jobs paying between US$100 (RM407) and US$200 a day by a “recruitment agency”.

It is believed that the agency was a front for a human trafficking syndicate.

keywords: cambodia, human trafficking, syndicate, released

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