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Malaysia - Indonesia

Malaysian man charged with trafficking 63 Indonesian women

Public information poster on human trafficking
Public information poster on human trafficking DR

A Malaysian man has been charged with trafficking and exploiting 63 Indonesian women who were brought into Malaysia to work as domestic helpers.

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Lawyer K. Kumarathiraviam said his client Lee In Chiew, a businessman and former teacher, was charged Monday in the northern state of Perlis for trafficking and exploiting the women using "threats and force". He faces up to 20 years in prison.

All of the alleged victims are Indonesians between ages 21 and 33. Kumarathiraviam said three of the maids ran away from the accused and lodged a report with authorities, which led to his arrest on 24 July.

"We are confident we can succeed in the case. The charges against Lee are
weak," Kumarathiraviam told AFP. 

According to the mawyer, Lee ran a maid agency and had brought the women into the country legally.

Lee was freed on bail without filing a plea.

Malaysia is home to some 1.2 million documented Indonesian workers, as well an estimated 800,000 Indonesians working illegally. Cases of abuse of maids at the hands of Malaysian bosses are a frequent source of outrage in Indonesia, contributing to often prickly relations between the two countries.

Humantrafficking.org, a website dedicated to fighting the phenomenon, says a significant number of Indonesian women voluntarily migrate to work as domestic servants but are later coerced into abusive conditions.

The US State Department's annual Trafficking in Persons report, which rates individual governments' responses to human trafficking, recently upgraded Malaysia from its bottom-rung Tier Three to its "Tier Two Watch List", in recognition of efforts to combat trafficking within its borders.

The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia published an excerpt of the report on its website.

Malaysia has no laws governing conditions for domestic workers, but the government has promised to draft legislation to protect them from sexual harassment, non-payment of wages and poor conditions.

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