NGO holds talks with Cambodian govt to help free detained Malaysians

Some of the 47 Malaysians being detained in Cambodia for alleged cheating and illegal gambling activities. (Bernama pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: A Malaysian NGO has held talks with the Cambodian government to help secure the release of the 47 Malaysians imprisoned in Poi Pet, 446km north of Phnom Penh.

NGO Antarabangsa chairman Mustapha Ahmad Marican said his meeting with Cambodian Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Oknha Othsman Hassan was to seek a solution to the plight of the Malaysians, who were mostly from the interior areas of Sarawak and Sabah.

He said Othsman agreed to bring the matter up with Prime Minister Hun Sen and obtain permission for Mustapha to visit them.

“Those who were detained were probably promised a lucrative income, especially since Cambodia uses the American dollar.

“They were promised good jobs but when they arrived in Cambodia, they were forced to work in casinos and illegal gambling dens,” he said in a statement today.

Media reports today also quoted a senior officer in Cambodia as saying the Malaysians would be released soon.

Um Siphan, provincial director of Banteay Meanchey, said officials were preparing the release, although he did not give a specific date.

Meanwhile, Sarawak Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Minister Fatimah Abdullah said it should be left to the government to negotiate the release of the Malaysians.

Otherwise, she said, it might affect the on-going government-to-government talks to free the detainees.

“Our chief minister (Abang Johari Openg) had asked me to visit the victims’ families and explain to them as the case is sensitive and needs to be tackled professionally,” she told reporters during her visit to the family of one of the detainees, Nur Ridwana Syahzani.

Fatimah said Wisma Putra has continued to update the state government about the case and the condition of the detainees.

According to Wisma Putra, the Malaysians were detained for alleged cheating and illegal gambling activities, she said.