Tears of relief, happiness at airport as ex-detainees finally return home

A mother embraces her son at Kuching International Airport.

By Nancy Nais

KUCHING, Feb 17: There were lots of tears, hugs and smiles between relieved parents and ex-detainees from Sarawak and Sabah at the Kuching International Airport VIP arrival gate today.

The 40 Sarawakians and three Sabahans touched down on a JC International Airlines chartered flight at 2.30pm. They had departed Siem Reap, Cambodia, around 11am and flew directly here.

As the ex-detainees walked out of the aircraft, most with just clothes on their back — some wearing shorts and T-shirts with no luggage, all of them held on to their passports dearly.

The moment some of them saw their parents, the scene turned into touching reunions, while others just sat quietly with their friends as their family members were not at the airport.

Nur Mardiana Mohamad Hamzah, 25, said her two months in jail was a horrible experience.

“Although they did not harm us, we were given rotten food. We didn’t have any money, so we could not buy anything. I’ve learnt my lesson. I don’t want to go through this again,” she said in between sobs.

Nur Mardiana Mohamad Hamzah

Another ex-detainee, Teo Eng Moh, 44, who recognised the DayakDaily journalist who visited them in Siem Reap on Feb 13, said, “Although my wife and family members are not here yet, I am glad to be back at home. Thank you to all those who were involved in our release from prison and bringing us home.

“Only God knows how grateful we are to all of you, including members of the media who’ve helped to highlight our case.”

Three ex-detainees Chong Su Kyun, 37, Jeffrydean Jude, 19, and Philipe Ho Chee Chin, 25, from Sabah will take the evening flight from Kuching to Kota Kinabalu.

Sabahan Chong Su Kyun, Jeffrydean Jude and Ho Chee Chin.

When asked how they felt, all three said they were very happy, thankful and looking forward to be greeted like the others here when they reach Kota Kinabalu tonight.

The six from Sibu will be taking a separate flight home tomorrow morning.

Minister of Welfare, Community Well-Being, Women, Family and Childhood Development Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah, who led the Sarawak government delegation to help secure the release, MP Santubong Dato Sri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar and Sarawak Foreign Affairs Ministry director Deddy Faisal Ahmad Salleh accompanied them home.

The Sarawak government had also assisted four other ex-detainees from West Malaysia (three from Selangor and one from Kuala Lumpur) onboard an AirAsia flight, which arrived Kuala Lumpur International Airport II at 11.35am today.

All the detainees’ return was facilitated by Senior Minister of Special Mission Osman Hassan, with the help of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and his cabinet members, while in Malaysia, the Sarawak government footed the bill for the chartered flight.

The 47 Malaysians were detained at Banteay Manchey Provincial Prison near Siem Reap in Cambodia since Dec 11 last year following alleged involvement in online gambling. — DayakDaily