Monday, May 19, 2008

Malaysia: Man Accused of Luring Thai Women in Prostitution

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA - A Malaysian man who allegedly lured two Thai women into the country to become sex workers became the first person charged under a tough new law against human trafficking, a lawyer said Tuesday.

Ee Chin Kai pleaded innocent in a court in southern Malaysia on Monday to two charges of bringing in the 27-year-old women and exploiting them to work as prostitutes, said Ee's lawyer, Noordin Hussin.

If convicted, Ee faces up to 15 years in prison and a fine for each charge under the Anti-Human Trafficking Act that came into effect last year.

"This one could be a test" of the new law, Noordin said.

The court scheduled a hearing for Sept. 17 and released Ee on bail.

Ee was arrested in March while the women were allegedly staying with him, Noordin said.

Human rights groups have long lobbied for Malaysia to punish human traffickers, many of whom previously escaped prosecution because there was no specific law to use against them.

The U.S. State Department, in its annual "Trafficking in Persons Report" released last June, downgraded Malaysia from a watch list to a blacklist "for its failure to show satisfactory progress in combating trafficking in persons."

Malaysian officials have said the new law could resolve such complaints by encouraging police, immigration departments and other authorities to pursue, prosecute and convict alleged human traffickers...


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