By Dan Rivers, Senior International Correspondent
Penang, Malaysia - We traveled to Cambodia planning to tell the story of an escape from modern-day slave labor but what we found were tales of more women trapped in debt-bondage in Malaysia.
In Cambodia, we found the women who had escaped, but we also learned about dozens of other workers stuck in similar circumstances, unable to get home unless they paid off their "debt" to a recruitment agency.
One mother, who we can't name because of her fear of retribution, explained how she had already sold her small landholding to free one daughter from this terrible situation.
She was now desperate to free her youngest daughter, age 22, who we've called Chanary to protect her identity.
We approached the agency, which had recruited both Chanary and the other women, and after initially inviting us into their compound for an interview, we suddenly found we'd been locked in. I was genuinely worried for our safety.
The owner, Ung Rithy, has powerful contacts with the police and government.
By the time Ung Rithy arrived we'd managed to persuade her staff to unlock the gates and we were waiting out on the street.
But Ung Rithy immediately ordered her staff to grab our equipment. She lunged for our camera and a tussle ensued. We managed to break free with our video and left. Rithy later offered an interview, then changed her mind, referring us to the Ministry of Labor. It was clear the company didn't appreciate the spotlight being shone on the business.
And that's because their business seems to follow some very questionable and unethical practices.
Witnesses have told us they target young, naïve girls from villages promising them lucrative jobs abroad.
But we discovered that the reality of those jobs was very different.
Over the next days, we tracked down Chanary, who said she was trapped in Malaysia and that her passport had been taken by the agency. She said she was not being paid the $250 she'd been promised, taking home just $100 a month after various 'deductions.'
Perhaps most shockingly, she'd been told she was now in debt to Ung Rithy's agency. For her to get home she'd have to pay $1,000 - a sum that would take years for her to save.
In practice she was enslaved; debt bonded far from home with no way to escape.
She and some friends had already tried to flee but they didn't get far without passports and were soon picked by the Malaysian police and forced to return to Penang and the factory where they worked 12-hour shifts, often seven days a week.
One of Chanary's friends says she is just 17 years old and claims she was given a falsified passport showing she is 22, because it's illegal to employ foreign workers under 18 in Malaysia.
We approached the JCY electronics factory where Chanary worked.
In a statement JCY insisted: "Most workers willingly give their passports to their respective agents for safe-keeping, and they are able to obtain their passports at anytime upon their request.
"Nevertheless we will investigate this matter with all our agents and ensure their compliance.
"Further all workers in our plants have free access to our human resource department and our management to report any grievance they may have. We try to resolve all grievances in a fair and equitable manner."
Regarding the issue of one of their workers being under 18, JCY added: "This is an extremely serious allegation. Malaysia has very strict laws in regards to human trafficking and false passports.
"We urge that if you do indeed have such evidence or information, to immediately make a report to our Malaysian authorities including the police. Further, as a matter of company policy, we do not employ any foreign workers below 18 years old."
JCY supplies computer hard-drive equipment to a number of global electronics giants, including Western Digital which also refused an interview.
In a statement Western Digital told CNN: "Critical to our approach is our commitment to complying with the guidelines set out in the Electronics Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC) code for labor standards, which can be found as part of the EICC Code of Conduct at [this link]"
"CNN's recent inquiry accelerated our scheduled audit of a second JCY facility, which was completed last week (June 2011). We reviewed our findings with JCY management, and we are partnering with them to put corrective actions in place to insure JCY meets all EICC provisions...
"Absent effective and sustained improvement, other actions would be taken, up to and including discontinuing our relationship with that supplier."
It would be nice to report that as a result of our investigation Chanary is back home with her elderly mother in Cambodia.
But she's still stuck working long shifts at JCY to pay-off her 'debt' to the Ung Rithy Agency. And Western Digital is still supplied by JCY.
However, Chanary does say her pay and conditions have improved dramatically since CNN started its inquiries.
I only hope that by exposing what is happening, perhaps soon Chanary and her friends will finally be allowed to go home.