A tourist guide in Malaysia has been charged with trafficking 26 Chinese citizens, while 12 Myanmar nationals were rescued from suspected traffickers in a separate case, officials said Tuesday.
Authorities have conducted several raids to prevent human smuggling since June, when the U.S. State Department called the country one of the world's worst trafficking offenders.
On Monday, a tourist guide pleaded not guilty to trafficking 26 people from Hong Kong at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport earlier this month, said a court official in central Selangor state. She declined to be named, citing policy.
The trafficking charge carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years. The trial will start Sept. 15, the official said. Lawyers could not immediately be reached.
The New Straits Times newspaper said the Chinese, including six minors aged 15 to 17, were about to fly to Brazil. The report did not say where the Chinese are now, and the prosecutor in the case could not be reached.
In a separate case, authorities rescued 12 Myanmar nationals, including four children, from a house in northern Kelantan state Sunday, said state immigration deputy director Nor Azilawati Mustapha. The youngest child was 2, she said.
Two brothers and their maid were detained. The official said the Myanmar nationals were going to be sent to Kuala Lumpur, the country's biggest city, to work.
She said the Myanmar nationals will not be charged with entering Malaysia illegally because they are considered victims of human trafficking. They are now staying in a shelter.
Malaysia's efforts to combat human trafficking will be reviewed in October by the United States, which has given the Southeast Asian country a low ranking in this year's "Trafficking in Persons Report."
The U.S. State Department's annual report is meant to expose trafficking problems around the world and propose solutions.