Heartbreaking prison visit in Cambodia

Sng (left) having a discussion with Mohd Azra Abdul Razak who has been helping to take care of the welfare of the detainees.

SIEM REAP, Feb 13: Completely heart-wrenching. That was how the Malaysian delegation felt when they entered Banteay Meanchey Provincial Prison hall and finally came face-to-face with the 47 Malaysians who have been detained there since last December for alleged illegal online gambling.

The faces of the detained Malaysians, aged between 19 and 44, broke up in soft smiles when they saw their fellow countrymen, who flew in early this morning out of concern for their well-being.

When detainee Yusuf Islam Abdul Halik, 21, saw his mother Zunita Sedini, 42, both of them cried openly.

However, she could only hold his hands for a few seconds, as prison officials had yet to allow the delegates to speak directly to the detainees then.

Zunita had to wait until after the 10-minute introduction by the delegates, comprising Julau MP Larry Sng, Malaysian media, detainees’ family members and Malaysian Embassy personnel, to the prison officials before she could hug her son.

Located about 110km from Siem Reap, the delegation arrived at the provincial prison at 10.30am, accompanied by Embassy of Malaysia’s deputy chief of mission Ruzaimi Mohd and other officials.

All the Malaysian delegates were vetted strictly by prison officials, ensuring that no mobile phones, TV cameras and big handbags were brought in.

The delegates were then given some 30 minutes to talk to the detainees — 44 of them Sarawakians.

The moment everyone was allowed to talk to each other, tears of joy and hugs were exchanged.

Although the Malaysian media delegates do not know any of the detainees, they cried, too.

The detainees seemed grateful, and their faces lighted up with the hope that they might be able to go home soon.

Part of the name list of the Malaysian detainees being held in Cambodia.
Part of the name list of the Malaysian detainees being held in Cambodia.

Many spoke to media, asking for help to convey their messages to their families back home. They wrote on whatever scraps of paper they could find and asked for help to bring these scribbled notes back to their parents or wives.

Kuching resident Chong Mei Lan, who was part of the delegation, also cried when she saw her brother Chong Jun Khong. Jun Khong, 27, wept tears of joy and told his sister and DayakDaily that although the prison cell was very cramped, he was fine and looking forward to going home.

Detainee Teo Eng Moh, 44, is equally grateful to see the Malaysian delegates. He said he was being holed up in a shared cell with other male inmates.

Teo said they were treated well and given two meals of rice and vegetable soup daily.

All the detainees were given the assurance that the Malaysian government was negotiating for their release and working very closely with the Cambodian government. — DayakDaily