KUALA LUMPUR: Human resources minister V Sivakumar has recognised the issue of forced labour in Malaysia, saying he acknowledges the problem but doesn’t believe it is as extensive as claimed.
“I’m not saying there’s no forced labour, but I don’t think the number is that big,” Sivakumar said.
His remarks came in response to assertions by UK-based activist Andrew Wallis, who claimed that modern slavery exists as a “significant illicit industry” within Malaysia.
Wallis also said there may be as many as 212,000 victims in the country at any given time.
While Sivakumar said he was sceptical about the extent of the issue, he did not deny its presence.
The minister also said the government is committed to taking strong action against employers found to be involved in forced labour.
“We are prepared to take severe action if at all any of our employers are using forced labour,” he said.
Sivakumar also said that the definition of forced labour encompasses a “wide” range of circumstances.
“Even if they (employers) don’t pay the salary, that can also be considered forced labour.
“We are ever ready to solve this problem,” he said.