Months living in deplorable conditions in a secluded oil palm estate in Kampung Tasek, near Pengkalan Hulu, Perak, affected his demeanour but once the police rescued him, the little boy perked up again.
The six-year-old was among five children and 13 adults rescued by police early Sunday after they were believed to have been trafficked and exploited by a couple managing the estate.
The child, who was warded for fever at Hospital Sultan Abdul Halim in Sungai Petani, Kedah, was with his mother, also part of the 18.
When police tried to ask the boy questions, all he wanted to do was play.
"He was discharged and we will get an interim protection order for the mother and son today.
"There were no abuse marks and when we tried to speak to him, he just wanted to play," said a police source when contacted by The Star.
On Monday, Perak CID chief Senior Asst Comm Datuk Gan Tian Kee said the rescued workers had been sent to various shelters in Rembau (Negri Sembilan), Subang Jaya (Selangor), Johor Baru and Tanjung Kling (Malacca).
They will be in the homes for 11 days until March 9.
Earlier, it was reported that a man was being treated at the Sungai Petani hospital but it turned out to be the six-year-old.
Police sources said they were still trying to trace the estate owner and hoped to record his statement soon.
Perak police said yesterday they had evidence of children being used as forced labour allegedly by a human trafficking syndicate in Pengkalan Hulu.
State police acting chief Datuk Hasnan Hassan said based on information they received from an informant, police are investigating whether the children were exploited.
"But to protect the informant, we cannot disclose more details," he told reporters.
During the midnight operation on Sunday, officers from the Perak Crime Investigation Department (CID), together with the Pengkalan Hulu CID, raided the 202ha estate as the workers slept.
Police have detained a 43-year-old man and his 24-year-old wife.
The couple are believed to be acting as middlemen and management for these workers.
The woman is from Negri Sembilan and she is said to have forced the children to work without wages. Her husband is from Pokok Sena, Kedah.
The two have been placed under remand until Friday, at the Pengkalan Hulu police headquarters.