40 Chin Refugees Rescued from Abandoned Warehouse in Malaysia
28 October 2012, KUALA LUMPUR: 40 refugees from Burma including five children believed to be victims of human trafficking were rescued from an abandoned warehouse at the township of Bukit Kayu Hitam, near to Malaysia-Thailand border on Wednesday night.
All of the Chin refugees, with the majority believed to be of Cho Chin tribe, previously worked in a tomato farm in Cameron Highlands, Pahang, but were sold to a syndicate who in turn supply them as cheap labors to a fruit orchard.
Cameron Highlands is well known in producing vegetable for local consumption and export. Vegetable growing in this highlands town, however, heavily depends on foreign workers including Chin refugees from Burma.
All victims including nine women and children were believed to be transported from Cameron Highlands to Bukit Kayu Hitam and ‘stored’ temporarily at the abandoned warehouse before they were transferred to their new employer.
They were poorly supplied as children had only an old newspaper to use as their ‘mattress’ when police raid the warehouse.
According to a police spokesperson, preliminary investigations showed that all the victims were granted refugee status by UNHCR and they had stayed at the warehouse for about a month.
“We believe the warehouse was a transit point for the refugees and a man from the syndicate managed to evade,” he said.
It is confirmed that all of the Chin victims are refugees from southern parts of Chin State, Burma.
Reporting by Thomas Chong