After fatal torture claim, Cambodia orders search in Penang detention centre

Former commissioner of Suhakam James Nayagam says the conditions of the Juru depot is unfit for humans and the worst and most deplorable detention camp in Malaysia. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Former commissioner of Suhakam James Nayagam says the conditions of the Juru depot is unfit for humans and the worst and most deplorable detention camp in Malaysia. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 17 ― Following eyewitness accounts of allegedly fatal torture at the Juru detention centre in Penang, Cambodia has ordered its embassy here to locate its remaining nationals in the depot.

The claims of fatal abuse reportedly surfaced after Cambodian labour rights group Central sent home two Cambodian women who had worked in Malaysia as maids before they were detained in the detention centre.

According to one of the women, she said police arrested her this January after she fled from her latest employer due to alleged physical abuse, adding that she was then placed at the Juru detention depot for migrant workers.

“At the prison, I was beaten and kicked for not understanding the prison officers well,” the women who had worked for two years in Malaysia was quoted saying by Cambodia's The Cambodia Daily.

She reportedly claimed that the torture of the detainees took place as they did not know Bahasa Malaysia and did not understand the depot officials, adding that she was “luckier” than the rest as she could speak some English and Malay.

“Others, like the Vietnamese, Thai, Indonesian and Laotian prisoners, were badly tortured,” she said. “They were pushed hard against the wall or had their heads knocked against the wall. There was an officer called Ma Pon who always punched and kicked us.”

“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,” she said. “When I woke up, I tried to wake them, but they were already dead.”

She claimed that she witnessed a total of seven women die ― five Cambodians and two Vietnamese  and that she saw the other deaths when she was asked to go along as a translator when the four were brought to a local hospital.

This Cambodian woman was sent back to Cambodia in June, along with another Cambodian woman that told Central of the “same” alleged abuse in the Juru detention centre. The second woman had also fled her abusive employer before landing at the centre.

The names of both women were not disclosed for safety reasons.

According to The Cambodia Daily, Cambodia's Foreign Affairs Ministry said last Thursday that its embassy here has been ordered to probe “information” relating to detainees of the Juru depot.

Former commissioner on the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) James Nayagam said he had previously reported on the conditions of the Juru depot, which he described as unfit for humans and the worst and most deplorable detention camp in Malaysia.

Rights group Tenaganita's Aegile Fernandez said local detention centres are where “migrant workers, refugees, stateless persons and migrants waiting to be deported” end up at, noting: “They are overcrowded, have little food given and minimum medical attention and of course abuses and rights violations.”

Cambodia had in 2011 banned the sending of its nationals to work as maids in Malaysia after claims of alleged abuse by Malaysian employers and recruitment agents.

In June this year, Cambodia offered to once again send domestic maids to Malaysia, with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak then saying that Malaysia had accepted the offer.

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