Detained Cambodian teen released, reunited with family

(AFP pic)

PETALING JAYA: A Cambodian teenager has been released from an immigration detention centre in Juru, Penang, and reunited with her family, according to the civil society group Tenaganita.

The group’s co-director, Aegile Fernandez, thanked Malaysians, including elected representatives who lobbied for her release, and said the girl, referred to as “Mon” would need a long process of healing after two years of traumatic experiences.

“She is home, but there still isn’t justice for her. We applaud those who worked for her release, but we also reiterate that she should never have been handcuffed and detained in the first place,” she said in a statement.

Mon had been brought to Malaysia when she was 14 and had worked for two years without pay. She was rescued after Tenaganita investigated another case, and she was placed under a protection order. When the order expired last month, she was ordered to be taken to an immigration detention centre.

Aegile questioned why the deputy public prosecutor had not taken up the exploitation of a child who “was kept from her family, threatened, and forced to work for two years without pay” and why the magistrates did not exercise their power to ensure that the ‘best interest of the child’ was taken into account.

She also questioned why Putrajaya refused to allow Mon to stay in a safe shelter while awaiting her repatriation.

“There must be a substantive conception of justice: are we doing right by the child? Are there resources and systems that support healing from the violence of exploitation?”

Aegile said that alternatives to detention had been proposed to the government for the past few years and wondered why Putrajaya chose to detain children despite this.

Mon was brought to Malaysia by labour agents with a promise of a job with a salary of RM1,000 per month. 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.

Her passport was taken away by the agent and she was allegedly abused on several occasions.