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Sarawakians looking for work in Cambodia? Shocking!

COMMENT | Several months ago, an old pal from Sarawak contacted me asking whether I was keen to take up an editorial position in Phnom Penh, capital of Cambodia.

He told me that he has been looking for me for some time as the newspaper he was attached to needed editors. We had lost contact for quite a while.

“No, not at my age. I’m not that adventurous now,” I replied in a WhatsApp message to him, respectfully declining his offer.

Seriously, Cambodia? The land of Pol Pot and the “killing fields”. Even if I were younger, I doubt I would make the move to Indochina. For a holiday, yes, but to live and work there doesn’t sound very inviting nor look promising to me. Unless, of course, I’m so desperate with no more food on the table.

“Desperate” is the word that comes to mind when I read the story of the 44 Sarawakians who are now imprisoned in Cambodia for what was officially alleged to be “involvement in illegal online gambling”.

Their plight was first highlighted on Feb 7 by Julau MP Larry Sng who said these victims aged between 18 and 20, were promised high-paying jobs before they were brought to Cambodia last year.

“These 47 young Malaysians (44 of whom are Sarawakians) are from poor families who are victims of a human-trafficking scam and are being held in a Cambodian provincial jail without trial and without the Malaysian Embassy (in Cambodia) being informed,” he said.

According to Sng, they were held for a week in a lock-up and then transferred to a provincial jail 446km from the capital on Dec 16 last year.

Sarawakians leaving for greener pastures in foreign countries for study or work is not something surprising. Neither is migrating overseas. But I’m actually shocked that young Sarawakians have to go to Cambodia to look for jobs.

I’ve not heard of Sarawakians or Malaysians migrating to Cambodia. At least, no friends that I know of. The opposite is true, isn’t it? Many from Indochina, like the Indonesians and Bangladeshis before them, are in Malaysia in search of a better life and a higher-paying job than back home.

My next all-important questions: Are conditions in Cambodia, including the economy now, so much better than in Sarawak? What jobs are available in Cambodia that these young Sarawakians cannot find at home?

Here, I’m mindful that the 44 who were arrested were very young (aged 18 to 20). What kind of academic qualification could they possibly have at that age? What kind of jobs could they be offered with little or no paper qualification at that age...

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