Four Cambodian women forced into the Malaysian sex trade have begun court hearings in Kuala Lumpur and are due to return home next week, NGO and government officials said Wednesday.
The women were trafficked through Thailand to Malaysia last February and March, and have been detained in Kuala Lumpur as illegal immigrants for nearly a year, NGO officials said. They were due to testify against at least one of their traffickers on Wednesday, said Mu Sochua, minister of Women’s Affairs.
The four are scheduled for repatriation Monday, said Kim Mony, operations manager for the International Organization for Migration. IOM has been working to facilitate the women’s fair treatment and return. “We received a return letter from the Cambodian Embassy in Malaysia,” he said Wednesday. “We have had no word from the Malaysian government, but the Cambodian ambassador said Malaysia agreed.”
Salasuddin Yusos, the Malaysian Embassy’s first secretary, said Wednesday that he had no new information regarding the case. One of the Cambodian women recently gave birth, said Heng Vannak, country coordinator of the Cambodian National Project Against Human Trafficking in the Mekong Subregion.
The woman, 27, was returned to the detention center three days after childbirth and forced to leave her baby at the hospital, he said.
The mother is not receiving special treatment, despite recovering from childbirth, said Pierre Legros, director of Afesip, an NGO that assists trafficking victims. “Any victim who is considered an illegal immigrant is held in a detention center,” he said Wednesday. “Malaysia has no laws to protect trafficking victims.”
But Mu Sochua said she is confident the women are being treated appropriately.
“When I met with the [Malaysian] ambassador, I raised all the issues. She assured me that they would be looked into,” the minister said. “Until now, the women have been well taken care of.”
Mu Sochua called on the Malaysian government in November to uphold a regional agreement on trafficking and repatriate the women without criminal punishment.