In a press statement that was released by civil society group Tenaganita on 28th March, it was discovered that a young Cambodian girl has been held in Malaysia against her will after she was brought to Malaysia when she was promised she would earn a lucrative salary while studying.
The teenage girl with the alias “Mon”, was 14 years old at the time when she was brought to Malaysia. An excerpt from Tenaganita’s statement reads,
“(Mon) was brought to Malaysia by labour agents with a promise of a job with a salary of RM1,000 per month and with an opportunity to learn English.”
“On arrival in Malaysia, she was forced to work in different homes and in a beauty parlour where she had to provide massage services to both men and women clients.”
The agent also took away Mon’s passport and Mon was reportedly abused on a number of occasions. When she asked to be sent back to Cambodia, her agent told her that she needed to complete a 3-year contract or pay money to leave.
Tenaganita discovered Mon’s situation when they were handling another Cambodian case, and immediately contacted the police to rescue the young girl. Mon had already been working for about two years when Tenaganita discovered her predicament. She is now 16 years old.
Mon was then placed in a shelter under an Interim Protection Order (IPO) under the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants (ATIPSOM) Act 2007.
The IPO expired on 27th March 2019, and it was then that the deputy public prosecutor (DPP) at the Georgetown Criminal Magistrates court in Penang decided that Mon was not a human trafficking victim and ordered for the child to be sent to an immigration detention centre prior to deportation. Their statement reads,
“Tenaganita is highly perplexed that the DPP did not find any indicators of human trafficking in this case, and are distraught that the child will be detained together with adults in dehumanising conditions.”
“Over the last one year or so, a number of human trafficking cases handled by Tenaganita have not been identified as such by the AGs chambers and the victims, instead of being given protection, have been sent to detention centres. Some of these victims have subsequently informed us of the abuses that they suffered while in detention.”
“Tenaganita is now highly concerned that Mon, who is a child, can be legally sent to an immigration detention centre.”
Mon is currently being held at the Juru immigration facility for her deposition to be taken before being deported to Cambodia. According to their statement, the entire process could take between a few weeks and a few months before the child can be sent home.
Tenaganita adds that Mon’s detention goes against the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which was signed by Malaysia. The UNCRC states, “No child shall be deprived of her liberty arbitrarily” and asserts institutions should make the child’s best interests the utmost priority. Tenaganita ended their statement saying,
“We call upon all parties involved in child protection and anti-human trafficking activities to act swiftly so that justice is done to a child who has undergone so many traumas as an obvious victim of human trafficking.”
“Malaysia has declared internationally and domestically its commitment to fight human trafficking, but these declarations will ring hollow unless these concerns are addressed in a transparent manner.”
Read Tenaganita’s full statement here.
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