Malaysian police have rescued 21 Ugandan women in prostitution raids, breaking up what they called the country's first large scale ring involving African victims.
Lured to Malaysia with the promise of jobs as maids, the women, aged 19-42 were forced into prostitution to pay off their $7000 travel fees, having previously been trafficked through China.
Police arrested two Ugandan women believed to be pimps as well as a Ugandan man believed to be a customer. They freed the women on Friday from four flats in an apartment building on the outskirts of the capital Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysia has been under increasing pressure to improve its anti-trafficking measures, having been identified as both a transit and destination country for human traffickers and having been placed on the US government's human trafficking watch list for the past few years. It is thought that this latest raid was carried out to show that police are serious about tackling the problem.
Report: Malaysia frees Ugandan women in trafficking operation [BBC News, 18 October 2011] Report: Malaysian police free 21 Ugandan 'sex slaves' [AFP, 18 October 2011]
Meanwhile, the country is also in the second week of a government imposed amnesty to grant legalisation to thousands of illegal workers. Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein said if they failed to to so, they would have to face the full brunt of the law.
The amnesty, which will last until January next year, was granted after employers complained that bringing in legal foreign workers was difficult. The five industial sectors granted the amnesty are manufacturing, plantations, agriculture, construction and the service sector.
Since Oct 10 till yesterday, the Home Minister said that 1,574 employers had come forward to submit applications to legalise 17,959 illegal foreign workers, adding that of the number, 17,227 workers were accepted for legalisation while the remaining 732 were rejected.
Report: Employers Told Not To Wait Till Last Minute To Register Illegals [Bernama, 18 October 2011]
Report: 17,227 illegals have so far been legalised, says Hisham [The Star, 19 October 2011]
In another turn of events involving foreign detainees, rights groups have issued an outcry after Malaysia announced that it was considering a detainee swap between Myanmar and the country, to reduce the number of Myanmar detainees currently in detention centres. A spokesperson from the NGO Suaram denounced the move, saying, “Myanmar’s on-going civil wars have forced its people to seek international protection outside the country...As such a majority of Myanmar detainees could be refugees.”
Human Rights Watched also condemned the move, noting that despite the various indications of political progress in Myanmar, its government continues to abuse ethnic minorities and political dissidents.
Report: Myanmar and Malaysia to swap detainees [The Star, October 18 2011]
Report: Outcry over Myanmar-Msia detainee swap [Free Malaysia Today, October 18, 2011]
Finally, In Cambodia, the UN backed war crimes court has announced that it would start the long awaited trial of four Khmer Rouge leaders accused of genocide and crimes against humanity next month. The announcement will be welcomed by victims, who fear the accused, aged 79 to 85, will not live to see a verdict. To speed up the process, the case has been divided into several smaller cases. Next month's first trial will focus on the forced movement of population and related charges of crimes against humanity. However both the prosecution and the defence will be allowed to address all the charges in their opening statements.
The Court has been mired in controversy since it was established, the latest development being a judge's shock resignation on October 9 citing government interference at the court.
The UN has announced that a senior legal official will be travelling to Phnom Penh later this week to address concerns.
Report: KRouge trial to hear evidence next month [AFP, 18 October 2011]