IPOH (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysian police said they had found eleven Thai nationals who were forced to pass off as locals and beg from passers-by as part of a ploy to gain sympathy during Ramadan.
According to police, the Thai nationals were dressed in traditional Malay clothes to help them pass off as locals.
Their month-long nightmare ended when police raided a house in Gombak, Selangor, at about 12.40am on Friday (June 9) and rescued them.
Perak CID chief Senior Asst Comm Datuk Gan Tian Kee said police had earlier arrested a Thai man, who had brought them to the house.
"We found the 11 victims inside. The youngest is 16 years old while the oldest is 44," he said in a statement. "We believe they were exploited as forced labour."
SAC Gan said the case was connected to four police reports, lodged in Gombak as well as Kampung Rapat, Tanjung Rambutan and Simpang Pulai in Perak.
"With the arrest, we believe all three cases in the state have been solved. But we will continue to monitor the situation," he said.
From the house, police recovered a sling bag, eight backpacks, RM1,900 (S$617) in cash, passports, nine mobile phones, a car and six Thai identity cards.
The suspect and victims have been sent to the Gombak police station for further action.
"The case is being investigated under the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Act," added SAC Gan.
On Tuesday, police detained five Thai nationals who were soliciting funds here for the supposed building of a mosque in Narathiwat, Thailand.
The men, aged between 18 and 28, are believed to be victims of human trafficking and told police they had been forced to ask for the donations for the past 11 months.
Police arrested a 36-year-old Thai man, who they believe is the taskmaster of the group, in a raid on a house at Taman Tanjung Damai in Tanjung Rambutan.