PETALING JAYA: Faced with life or death in a building controlled by a job scam syndicate, eight Malaysians held in Laos decided who among them should attempt to escape, in hopes they could mobilise greater efforts to save the rest.
Eventually, they decided that four of them would escape through a tunnel dug by local residents in the Laotian town, with the future of those left behind unknown.
It was a tough decision to make because the Malaysians were set to be “sold” to syndicates in Myanmar in two days.
Khoo (not his real name) was one of those picked to escape from the clutches of the job scam syndicate.
The 34-year-old could still remember the stern warnings from syndicate members previously on how those who tried to escape in the past had been punished.
“A Chinese national was beaten in front of us. He had a broken arm and leg, and his head was split open. (A member of the syndicate) warned that if we tried to escape, we would end up with the same fate.”
It was unclear how the local residents knew about the Malaysians’ situation, but they had led them through the tunnel, where a car was waiting for them at the end.
Another victim, Danny (not his real name), said he was determined to fight on even if the escape failed. Danny could only accept two outcomes – hug his wife in Malaysia or die fighting in Laos.
“If you don’t run, you will die. So we (sought to escape). Even if we die together, it’s fine,” the 35-year-old said, after being reunited with his wife and three-year-old son after eight months of separation.
Lee (not his real name) was one of those who were not chosen to escape through the tunnel that day, as the big-bodied 28-year-old would not have been able to make it through.
Nonetheless, he planned his own escape when he was hospitalised, feigning an illness. With the help of some local residents, he managed to escape, though he was almost caught by the thug who was guarding him.
“It was my only chance to run. If I didn’t, I would have died. I am the biggest (in size) among the group (of eight Malaysians). Even they did not think I could escape,” he said.
“I was very lucky.”
The Malaysians arrived at KLIA on Tuesday to be greeted by their families who had waited eight months since they were held captive by the syndicate.
As Danny took his son into his arms, he expressed gratitude to the Laotian residents who helped them escape.
“Seeing my wife and children and my whole family, I am truly happy. If no one had helped, we would have died there,” he said.
The families of the victims thanked the government, the Malaysian International Humanitarian Organisation and authorities in Laos for their efforts to bring them home.
“I cannot speak right now, but I am overjoyed now that my sons are back, thank you,” said Tham, 62, the father of two of those who returned.