MALAYSIA’S Home Ministry says it will investigate allegations by two Cambodian maids that migrant workers were tortured – some to death – at the country’s Juru detention depot in the state of Penang.
The ministry’s deputy, Nur Jazlan Mohamed, told Malaysian news portal Malay Mail Online that the government will launch the probe despite not having received formal complaints of the alleged abuse.
“We will investigate whether or not this is true, or just mere rumours. We have not received reports of this happening,” he was quoted saying, echoing remarks on the matter earlier by the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC).
EAIC, an oversight body in charge of keeping local enforcement agencies in check, had on Wednesday told the news portal that it was aware of the maids’ claims, but has never received complaints.
Malaysia’s promise to investigate the allegations comes despite the Cambodian government’s denial of the matter.
According to the Phnom Penh Post, the country’s Foreign Ministry rejected the maids’ claims of fatal torture, even revealing that the duo had not raised the matter during their repatriation mid-June.
The Cambodia Daily in a report Monday wrote that the Cambodian embassy in Malaysia was ordered to search for its nationals at the detention depot, after the two returned maids related harrowing tales of abuse at the hands of wardens.
“When I woke up, I tried to wake them, but they were already dead,” a maid was quoted as saying.
The report quoted the maids as alleging that migrant workers were often punched and kicked, with one maid claiming she had even witnessed seven detainees – five Cambodians and two Vietnamese – die in custody.
“At the prison, I was beaten and kicked for not understanding the prison officers well. Others, like the Vietnamese, Thai, Indonesian and Laotian prisoners, were badly tortured. They were pushed hard against the wall and had their heads knocked against the wall. There was an officer called Ma Pon who always punched and kicked us,” she said.
“I witnessed two Cambodians and a Vietnamese girl die at the prison after they were repeatedly hit, kicked and punched in the face and chest. The three were badly tortured and I found them dead the next morning since we slept in the same block.
“When I woke up, I tried to wake them, but they were already dead.”
Migrant abuse is a thorny issue in Malaysia. The international Global Slavery Index recently revealed that approximately 129,000 people or 0.4 percent of the country’s 30 million population were being treated like slaves.
Five years ago, Cambodia issued a ban on its nationals working as maids in Malaysia, following reports of abuse.
But in June, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen lifted the ban and reportedly urged his counterpart in Malaysia Najib Razak to resume accepting maids from Cambodia.