About 1,000 Burmese nationals in Malaysia have been “picked up” by Malaysian police forces in recent days after at least three Burmese migrants were allegedly killed by a group of Muslims in Kuala Lumpur.
Multiple clashes involving Burmese people in Kuala Lumpur and surrounding Selangor State have been reported since May 30, resulting in the deaths of three Burmese workers. Several others have been hospitalized with injuries, according to Burmese migrant workers in the Malaysian capital.
The killings have been linked to religious violence in Burma, where anti-Muslim sentiment has led Buddhist extremists to launch attacks against the country’s minority Muslims, leaving more than 200 Muslims dead over the last year.
Kuala Lumpur’s deputy police chief, Sr Asst Comr Datuk Amar Singh, told The Star Online that Malaysian authorities had begun to detain the Burmese nationals in order to prevent further possible violence.
“We have taken steps to prevent further bloodshed by picking up more than 1,000 Myanmar workers, mainly in Sentul, Cheras, Brickfields and Dang Wangi,” Amar Singh was quoted as saying, adding that illegal migrants to the country would be detained on a more permanent basis.
San Win, a Burmese migrant worker in Kuala Lumpur, told The Irrawaddy that Burmese people in Malaysia had contacted the Burmese Embassy in Kuala Lumpur seeking protection after they were attacked by a group of armed men who were believed to be Muslims.
He said, however, that the Burmese people had not received adequate protection from the Burmese Embassy. He said Burmese nationals, most of whom are Buddhists, were living in fear amid Malaysia’s majority-Muslim population.
On Thursday, five representatives of Burmese communities in Malaysia staged a protest in front of the Burmese Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, criticizing the Burmese ambassador to Malaysia, Tin Latt, for failing to provide protection to Burmese people living abroad in Malaysia.
Myat Ko Ko, an organizer of the protest, said that Malaysian authorities would launch a nationwide crackdown on Burmese nationals in the coming weeks.
The protesters also called on the Burmese Embassy to identify the bodies of those killed over the last week and to aid the families of the deceased. They demanded assistance from Burma’s diplomatic mission in Malaysia for those Burmese nationals hospitalized or in hiding as a result of the recent violence.
Myat Ko Ko said that the crackdown and detainments increased significantly after Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Zin Yaw on Tuesday urged Malaysia’s ambassador to Burma, Ahmad Faisal Bin Muhamad, to take action against those who committed the killings and to prevent further violence.
Win Aung, a Burmese migrant in Kuala Lumpur, said the detentions were made over the last few days.
“Malaysian police, immigration officials and paramilitary militias started special operations in the evening of Tuesday and the whole day on Wednesday,” he said. “They arrested both undocumented and documented migrants.”
One Burmese migrant worker in Kuala Lumpur, who asked for anonymity, questioned the priorities of Malaysia’s law enforcers.
“They should arrest those who committed killing. Instead, they arrest all the Burmese they see,” he said.
It is estimated that there are more than 400,000 Burmese nationals living in Malaysia, including documented and undocumented migrant workers as well as UN-registered refugees.