Stranded for 24 years in Cambodia, Mohd Zulkifli in seventh heaven after returning home

Mohd Zulkifli Jefri (second left) with relatives who received him at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport May 20, 2017. — Bernama pic
Mohd Zulkifli Jefri (second left) with relatives who received him at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport May 20, 2017. — Bernama pic

KOTA KINABALU, May 20 — “Syukur Allhamdulillah (Thank God), everything happens because of the power of God.” Mohd Zulkifli Jefri summed up his feelings with these words shortly after arrival at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) from Kuala Lumpur at 11.30 this morning.

The 54-year-old who was previously reported to be stranded in Cambodia for 24 years due to lack of travel documents was greeted by family members, including his uncle, Mustapha Ali at the KKIA.

Mohd Zulkifli said that after he managed to re-enter Malaysia via Bukit Kayu Hitam at the Malaysia-Thailand border, he stayed at a friend’s house in Alor Star for 40 days.

“Twenty-four years is such a long time. I never thought that I could still return to Sabah but it all happened because of God,” the native of Tambisan, Lahad Datu told reporters who were waiting for him at the airport.

According to earlier reports on national media, Mohd Zulkifli had gone to Koh Kong Province, Cambodia in 1993, along with 14 other Malaysians after a Malaysian-owned timber company obtained tender for logging in the region.

However in 1995, due to political turmoil in Cambodia, the company ceased operations and his employer disappeared, along with Mohd Zulkifli’s travel documents.

With no travel documents, he became an illegal immigrant in that country, moving from one forest to another, for fear of arrest by the authorities. He eked out a living by chopping wood for meagre wages.

In 2002, he went to the Malaysian Embassy in Cambodia to ask for assistance to return to Malaysia. However, the process took so long that he ended up penniless and abandoned his intention to return home.

However, in March this year, after travelling for 1,400km from Koh Kong by car and rented motorcycle, he finally arrived at the Bukit Kayu Hitam border before entering Malaysia.

“All I want to do at this moment is to spend time with my family. I do not want to think of anything else, including my future plans,” said Mohd Zulkifli.

On the logging company which left him stranded in Cambodia, he said the company probably did not exist anymore and for him, the most important thing was that he was safely back in Sabah.

Asked why the Malaysian Embassy in Cambodia did not help him during his visit there in 2002, Mohd Zulkifli said he was told the embassy could not contact his family in Sabah.

He said he was already in touch with his children and would return to Tambisan soon to meet them and other relatives.

“I am really grateful to the Raja Muda Perlis (Tuanku Syed Faizuddin Putra Ibni Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Jamalullail) for his help. Through his private secretary, I was assisted in obtaining my MyKad,” he said.

However, Mohd Zulkifli was somewhat disappointed with the National Registration Department in Putrajaya which took a long time to issue the MyKad despite provision of all relevant documents proving he was a Malaysian from Sabah. — Bernama

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