Malaysian teens forced into the sex trade after befriending couple via WeChat

Malaysian teens forced into the sex trade after befriending couple via WeChat
PHOTO: Reuters

KOTA KINABALU - Four teenagers who were promised jobs ended up being forced into prostitution instead.

The teenagers, one of them male, had befriended a man and his girlfriend, aged 30 and 22 respectively, via the WeChat messaging app where they chatted about job opportunities.

But they did not get the jobs they thought they were going to get.

The four teenagers were nabbed for working underage and without a permit following a raid on an entertainment outlet at a "cybercity" near here at about 2am on Feb 7.

They were working as "guest relation officers" who were also forced to provide sexual services to clients upon request, according to city police chief Asst Comm M. Chandra.

He said the victims – three girls aged 15, 17 and 18, and a 16-year-old boy – were under the "care" of a couple who had earlier promised them jobs in Lahad Datu.

He said after meeting the couple, the teens followed them to Lahad Datu.

"However, upon arriving, they were asked to instead provide sexual services to customers," ACP Chandra said.

He said the teenagers claimed that they had tried escaping but were captured by the couple.

"They told us after that, the man brought them to Tawau and kept them locked in a house there," he said, adding the teens were undocumented.

ACP Chandra said the man then brought the four teens to work as guest relation officers at his entertainment outlet here, where they were also required to perform sexual services.

Police detained a disc jockey and the caretaker of the entertainment outlet following the Feb 7 raid.

The couple was subsequently arrested at a house in Putatan not far from here on the same day.

ACP Chandra said the parents of the victims were not aware of their children's activities.

The teenagers have been sent to shelter homes in peninsular Malaysia, where they are expected to undergo counselling.

The owner of the entertainment outlet is being investigated for various offences including harbouring illegal immigrants, exploitation of children under the age of 18, and human trafficking.

The caretaker is expected to be investigated for operating beyond the permitted hours for entertainment outlets.

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