Malaysian police have detained a couple over the alleged murder of a Cambodian maid after the 24-year-old woman died of possible prolonged starvation, police said on Thursday.
Mey Sichan’s employers telephoned for an ambulance on March 31 but paramedics found her dead on arrival, Nasir Salleh, police chief of the northern state of Penang, told AFP. She also had bruises to her body.
A post-mortem revealed that she died from acute gastritis and ulcers likely due to lack of food over a long period, he said. The maid had been working for the family, who manage a hardware shop, for eight months.
“Definitely what happened to Sichan is inhumane. It is a shock to us,” the police chief said.
Sichan’s body weight had shrunk to 26 kilos, almost half that of a healthy woman, he said.
Police detained a couple, the maid’s employers, on Saturday, and are also questioning three workers of their shop to assist in the murder probe.
In October, Cambodia imposed a temporary ban on sending domestic workers to Malaysia following numerous complaints of abuse.
The surprise move came after activists highlighted dozens of cases of sexual abuse, overwork and exploitation among the estimated 50,000 Cambodian women employed as domestic helpers in Malaysia.
Reports of abuse in Malaysia have frequently surfaced in recent years and led Indonesia to stop sending domestic helpers to the country in 2009, prompting a rise in demand for Cambodians.
Last August a Malaysian was sentenced to eight years in prison for abusing his Indonesian maid, three months after his wife was jailed for scalding the woman with a hot iron.
About 170,000 women, mostly from poor neighbouring Southeast Asian countries, work as maids in Malaysia.