One of the 47 Malaysians detained by Cambodian officials on December 11th claims he was treated live a slave by the online gambling syndicate who smuggled him into the country. The Khmer Times published a report quoting a “high-placed source” who had access to Aron Naldy Muhammad Ting Abdullah, the 22-year old Malaysian national who was still being held in Cambodia.
The Khmer Times said the 47 detainees are being detained in Cambodia, but they are well-treated at the detention centers. Wisma Putra, the Malaysian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, assured family members it is working to bring the detainees home in short order.
Larry Sng, a Malasyian MP, said he was seeking to have a face-to-face meeting with detainees, “In view of the rather limited communication with the detained Malaysians, I am making every effort in my personal capacity to get more comprehensive information on them.”
Malaysian Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal said in a statement to The New Strait Times the foreign ministry wanted access to the prisoners. Datuk Seri said, “I have to get the details as to why they were detained. We’ll try to find out and if there is a necessity for us to help, we will definitely assist.”
Once communication can be established, the officials can learn why Malaysian nationals were detained and when they might be released. Datuk Seri said, “We will communicate with the relevant authority to find out first. We will ask the Foreign Ministry to communicate with its counterpart on how we can ensure these people can be brought back safely.”
Cambodian Illegal Online Gambling Ring
The immediate safety of the Malaysians is key at the moment, but the story behind the detentions is important to know. The tale Aron Naldy Muhammad Ting Abdullah has to tell sounds harrowing.
Mr. Abdullah claims he and forty-seven other Malaysian nationals were smuggled from Sarawak and Sabah in their home country into Phnom Penh to work for an online gambling ring. The illegal online gambling operators and the smuggling ring was controlled by Chinese nationals, some of whom were detained in the December raids.
Chinese Gaming Ring Smuggled Malaysians
Abdullah said in September 2018 he was smuggled alongside two of his friends, Wong Chhung Hung and Ng Chun Fei, after being offered a job that was supposed to pay US$1,500 a month. The three paid a US$300 fee into a Malaysian bank account as down payment for passports and flight tickets.
Once inside Cambodia, the victims were told they would have to repay debts for the smuggling services — what is termed by anti-trafficking groups as “debt slavery” or “debt bondage“. Aron Naldy and friends were kept in a workhouse they could not leave which was surrounded by guards.
Online Gambling Slavery
Aron Naldy told the unnamed source, “It was a house that had guards and we received daily instructions from some Chinese nationals who also lived there. We were made to work from 8am to 4pm daily, learning on a tablet how online gambling works.”
Despite their growing suspicion something was wrong, the detainees said they tried to work their way out of debt. Aron Naldy said, “We were not allowed to go out or speak to anyone outside of the house. They confiscated our phones and personal documents when we first arrived at the house. Although we went along with it, we did feel like something was wrong.”
“When we asked about our salary, we were told that it would be banked into our accounts and that we can check it when we return to Malaysia during the Chinese New Year break.”
Larry Sng on Sarawian Detainees
Julau MP Larry Sng (Wei Shien) said 44 of the 47 detainees were from Sarawak. Larry Sng emphasized he was helping the victims’ families, adding, “Most of the Sarawakians are Iban who, like the others, were enticed by the promise of high-paying jobs.”
At a press conference, Sng said, “They were cheated by this recruitment agency which we believe is run by a human trafficking syndicate who target mostly those from rural areas. We have received information that they were brought to Cambodia in stages and were charged between US$100 and US$200 (between RM407.50 and RM815) each by the syndicate. We don’t know what kind of work they were promised but they were guaranteed high-paying jobs.”
The Malaysian offical said he and the other Wisma Putra members are emphasizing the detainees are victims — not criminals. Larry Sng added, “We hope this matter can be resolved properly, our consulate over there is also in constant contact with the authorities (in Cambodia) to help ease the affairs of those detained. They have also visited our people there who were arrested to ensure their welfare is taken cared of.”