KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian authorities have freed 105 mostly Indonesian maids who were forced to work without pay by day and held against their will at night, local media reported on Monday.
The women were freed Saturday in a raid on a building near the capital Kuala Lumpur where they had been held by their employment agency, said the reports, in a case sure to feed anger among Malaysia's neighbors over recurring reports of foreign maids being abused in the country.
The 95 Indonesians, six Filipinas and four Cambodians had entered Malaysia in recent months on social visit passes that do not confer the right to work legally in the country, leaving them vulnerable to abuse, officials were quoted saying.
Authorities involved in the case could not immediately be reached.
The Star newspaper said the women were locked up in three floors of a building in the state of Selangor.
They were sent every morning to houses in the area to work as domestic helpers but were confined at night, it quoted Selangor immigration department director Amran Ahmad as saying.
The newspaper said some of the women claimed the agency took their pay as an advance payment equal to seven months' wages for the recruitment services.
Their monthly wages were 700 ringgit ($230) it said.
Twelve people were arrested over their confinement, it added.
Malaysia, which has some of Southeast Asia's highest living standards, has been a magnet for women from Indonesia, the Philippines and Cambodia who seek work as maids.
However, Indonesia imposed a ban on sending maids to Malaysia three years ago over numerous cases of women being abused by their employers or recruiters.
Indonesia, the main source of domestic workers for Malaysia, announced last December it would lift the ban after the two countries agreed to better protect maids, but new incidents have continued to rankle Jakarta.
In October, an advertisement in Malaysia that offered Indonesian maids "on sale" went viral online in Indonesia, sparking new outrage.
Last month, police said they were investigating a man in northern Malaysia for allegedly raping his 15-year-old Indonesian maid, while in a separate case, three police officers were charged in November with raping a 25-year-old Indonesian woman at a police station.