For Years, Malaysia has been considered a sort of a safe haven for refugees coming from Indonesia, Thailand, Burma, Bangladesh, Nepal and elsewhere — but now the government of Malaysia is making it clear that most of these refugees will not be finding any safety or freedom in this country.
Last month, Kuala Lumpur began a campaign to round up approximately 500,000 refugees from the above-mentioned countries. To date, close to 10,000 refugees have been picked up and sent off to detention camps where they wait for their imminent return to the conflict- and poverty-stricken lands they’ve fled from.
This past weekend, Malaysia arrested up to 300 Rohingyas from Myanmar (Burma), and reports are coming in that the government is caning them—that is, beating them with a metre-long stick as punishment. The refugees are considered to be illegal immigrants, therefore criminals. Caning has long since been considered a “supplemental punishment” for atleast 40 different crimes in Malaysia.
Just recently, the Myanmar Ethnic Rohingyas Human Rights Organization Malaysia, also urging the Malaysian government to end this crackdown against refugees— has called for the end to caning the refugees. More generally, Malaysia’s Bar Council and numerous human rights groups have also called for end of caning altogether.
On top of the ‘supplemental punishment’, refugees are often humiliated and abused, forced to opt for ‘voluntary deportation’ to escape prolonged and indefinite detention in Malaysia—and whether imprisoned of not, have no rights.
In regard to this, for World Refugee Day on June 20th, 14 human rights organizations signed a joint statement for Malaysia to observe its International Obligations for the Protection of Asylum Seekers and Refugees.
Many of the refugees, at least 12,000 of them Rohingya, are registered with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, but the Malaysian State has yet not signed on to the UN’s Convention on the Status of Refugees, which has been ratified by more than 140 States.
As for the Rohingyas themselves, they’ve been struggling since Burma became a state in 1948. In recent times, they’ve been fleeing Burma in droves to escape systemic abuse and violence.
The Rohingya’s experience in Malaysia has frequently been no different in other countries they’ve fled to—for instance, Thailand, and Bangladesh.
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