The Foreign Affairs Ministry on Tuesday refuted the claims of two women who say they saw inmates at a Malaysian detention depot fatally beaten by guards earlier this year, including fellow Cambodians.
The women had been working as maids in Malaysia before leaving what they said were abusive households and being arrested by police, who sent them to a detention facility called Juru in the country’s northwest state of Penang. At the request of the Cambodian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, the Cambodian labor rights group Central paid for their flights back home in mid-June.
One of the women, who spoke with The Cambodia Daily last month, said guards at Juru routinely kicked and punched inmates or knocked their heads against the walls, and that she saw five Cambodians and two Vietnamese die over the course of about six months, some at the center and some at a nearby hospital. Central said the other woman, who has been unreachable since her return, gave the same account of beatings and deaths at the center before leaving the organization’s care.
Central has asked that the women not be named for their safety.
The organization said it had informed officials at the Cambodian Embassy in Malaysia about the women’s claims of abuse soon after they were repatriated, and was told that the embassy lacked the resources to investigate.
In a statement released on Tuesday, the Foreign Affairs Ministry said embassy officials visited Juru recently and were told by staff at the center that the claims of abuse were not true.
“Juru prison rejects the allegations that prisoners were tortured there and that some Cambodians died because of torture,” the statement said.
Juru staff also told the embassy that 33 Cambodians were detained there this year and that all but two had returned home. They said one of the two would be leaving soon and that the other, Saing Phlat, died of an unspecified “illness” at a Malaysian hospital on June 23.
Central director Moeun Tola said he appreciated the ministry’s efforts but added that an independent investigation of what occurred at Juru, which rights bodies in Malaysia have already singled out for its poor conditions and alleged abuses, was in order.
“Since the violation or torture was reported, and [because the] Malaysian Human Rights Commission and Malaysian NGOs also confirmed about violations in Juru depot, I think independent investigation needs to be taken seriously,” he said.