Foreign workers constitute more than 20 percent of the Malaysian workforce and typically migrate voluntarily—often illegally—to Malaysia from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Burma, Indonesia, the Philippines, and other Southeast Asian countries, mostly in pursuit of better economic opportunities. Some of these migrants are subjected to forced labour or debt bondage by their employers, employment agents, or informal labour recruiters when they are unable to pay the fees for recruitment and associated travel.
Khanh was looking for work to help her family when a neighbour offered to help her work in Malaysia. After being given money to enter as a tourist, Khanh was taken to the house where she would work. Forced to work long hours on little sleep, Khanh was under constant surveillance and subjected to physical abuse. Though she tried to escape a number of times, it was only when the daughter of the family she worked for came to visit that she was able to escape, hiding in the boot of her car.
When I was 15 years old, I helped my family by selling noodles and rice. My dream was to find a job so I could earn money and help my family, and also to learn a trade that I’d love, for a better future.
When I was working at a seafood company in Hau Giang, one morning while I was sleeping, Mrs Nam, a neighbour, came to my house and told me that she wanted to help my family pay off our debt.
She came to our house several times to tell my mother and I this. She said she could guarantee a way for me to get to Malaysia.
The monthly salary was supposed to be 700 MYR equal to 3.5 million VND. If I did a good job, they would raise the salary.
When I went to the house the man handed me 500 in currency. When he got back he asked me to return the money that he had given me to enter as a tourist.
The next day, I started to do housework and raise chickens. My tasks in the house were cleaning, washing and other housework. There was about 600 chickens and I had to feed them twice a day. I had no time for sleep. I started work at 10pm each night, I went to sleep and 8pm, got up at 10pm. I had only 2 hours of sleep a day. It was like that everyday.
When I stayed in that house I had no freedom. I couldn’t go anywhere. Anytime I would go out, a guard would keep an eye on me. His house was equipped with six cameras, which spun in four directions. Whatever I did and wherever I went, he could see me.
One day, one of his chickens died, so he blamed me for killing his chicken. He beat me with a cane that was as thick as my arm and it was very long. He beat me so hard that my arms swelled up and I could no longer do anything.
When a lot of chickens died, he used power cables to chain my neck and legs. There was a time he tied me up and used a live power cable to shock me. After beating me, he then folded a garden hose and whipped me black and blue all over the body.
Many times I thought I could succeed in escaping from that place. However, each time I tried to escape, I was caught and was beaten even more than before.
So I begged the woman to help me to escape, however she told me that she couldn’t help me because she was so afraid of him. She then asked her daughter who lived in a different area, to hide me inside her car boot and drive me past the guards at the gate. Once we got out of there, I went to the police.
When I got back, I told my story to family and neighbours. They were all very sympathetic. They hugged me and cried.
If you want to go abroad, you should have complete documentation. I want to share with the sisters who are planning to go abroad, don’t listen to hearsay, or those people who sweet talk you into going abroad to make a living.
As told to documentary makers at MTV Exit.