Malaysian recounts Cambodian ordeal: We were trapped inside house for 3 weeks

The 47 Malaysians detained in Cambodia were lured to the country with promises of high-paying jobs. (Bernama pic)

BANTEAY MEANCHEY: Twenty-three-year-old Lisa, one of the 47 Malaysians under detention in Cambodia, says the prospect of a job in a different country fascinated her.

She read about it in an advertisement on WeChat and contacted the agency immediately.

“The advertisement offered jobs in a five-star hotel with a salary of US$1,500 (about RM6,100) a month, apart from providing hostel accommodation and transport.

“The ‘agent’ even provided free flight tickets to Cambodia,” she told a Bernama News Channel correspondent who visited the detainees in prison yesterday.

Lisa (not her real name) said she was also swayed by photographs of other Malaysians who had arrived in Cambodia earlier. The agent shared their photos, telling her they too would be working at the same hotel.

“The photographs were so convincing. I thought if they could go and work in a different country, why can’t I? After all, the flight ticket is taken care of,” she said.

A week later, in November last year, Lisa left Kuching, Sarawak for Kuala Lumpur before boarding a flight to the Siem Reap International Airport.

A man waiting at the arrival hall took her to a three-storey bungalow in the Siem Reap district, she added.

“There were eight teenage girls and a dozen or so men in the house. They seemed to be enjoying dinner prepared by a woman chef.

“I was overjoyed at the time because everyone there was from Sarawak, and they too found out about the same hotel job offer from either the social media or through friends,” she said.

However, the situation became a little suspicious over the next two weeks when they were not allowed to go out of the house. Only the chef and agent were free to come and go at any time, she said.

They then started pestering the agent about the jobs they were promised.

“We were not allowed to leave the house. The door was locked from the outside. Just imagine being trapped inside a house for three weeks.

“We began to worry because those who arrived earlier were still jobless.

“We asked the agent numerous questions but all he did was tell us to be patient, saying the hotel management had yet to prepare the documents for foreign workers like us,” she said.

Then came their worst nightmare.

According to Lisa, everything changed in the third week when they were shocked by the repeated knocks on the door by people claiming to be police.

The chef told them to hurry down to the lower level of the bungalow and hide in an underground room.

“I had been at the bungalow for nearly three weeks and it was the first time that we knew there was an underground room. We panicked and followed her instructions, but the authorities found us and took us to the police station,” she said.

Lisa said she learnt that the authorities also raided another building housing other Sarawakians.

She said that after being detained on Dec 11 and spending a night in the lock-up, they were transferred to the Banteay Meanchey provincial prison.

“I regret falling for the scam because even though jobs in Bintulu do not pay that much, at least I wouldn’t be so far away from my family,” she said, adding that she hoped to be freed soon.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah has urged the Cambodian government to expedite their investigation into the detention of the 47 Malaysians and free those not guilty of any crime.

“The earlier, the better. We ask that those not involved in any wrongdoing be released immediately.

“We are confident that the majority of those detained are not involved in any offences because they are just victims of a job scam,” Saifuddin told reporters in Putrajaya today.