Malaysia: Arrest of Burmese Asylum Seekers and Refugees Must Stop
29 June 2007 4:46 am

FORUM-ASIA and SUARAM, its member organisation in Malaysia, called on the Malaysian Prime Minister for urgent intervention in the case of 318 asylum seekers and refugees from Burma arrested over the past three days. The Malaysian government must respect its promise during its candidature at the UN Human Rights Council in 2006.

The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), a regional human rights organisation based in Bangkok, Thailand and its member organisation in Malaysia, Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) called for an urgent intervention regarding the massive arrests of the Burmese asylum seekers and refugees in Malaysia in its open letter to Dato Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the Prime Minister of Malaysia.

More than 318 asylum seekers and refugees from Burma have been arrested by the People’s Voluntary Corps (RELA) on 25-27 June 2007 in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. On the night of 26 June, about 90 asylum seekers and refugees were arrested by RELA in Jalan Loke Yew and Port Klang in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor respectively. Out of the 90, many are women and children.

Earlier on 25 June 2007, 228 Burmese asylum seekers and refugees from Burma were arrested by RELA and Malaysian Immigrant officers at the Chin Refugees Centre and Chin Communities at Jalan Imbi and Jalan San Peng, Kuala Lumpur.

FORUM-ASIA, in its open letter to Prime Minister Badawi, called for the Malaysian government to abide by international human rights standards. Mr. Anselmo Lee, the Executive Director of FORUM-ASIA citing the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women’s (CEDAW) recommendation to Malaysia in June 2006 to adopt “laws and regulations relating to the status of asylum seekers and refugees in Malaysia…in order to ensure protection of asylum seekers”.

Yap Swee Seng, the Executive Director of SUARAM expressed condemnation of the arrest and detention of the asylum seekers and refugees. “This is an unacceptable action by the government especially right after the commemoration of the UN World Day for Refugees on 20 June. We call on the Malaysian government to respect its promise during its candidature at the UN Human Rights Council in 2006,” said Mr. Yap.

Malaysia is a signatory to CEDAW and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and most importantly it needs to abide by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which in article 9 states that “no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile”.

“We believe that the release of these asylum seekers will [allow Malaysia to] take a major role in the ‘promotion and protection of human rights’ in the process of nation building,” stressed the statement.

The open letter was sent to relevant government and UN experts including:
• Datuk Radzi Sheikh Ahmad, Ministry of Home Affairs
• Tuan Hj Wahid Bin Mohd. Don, Director General of Immigration Department
• Datuk Zaidon Bin Haji Asmuni, RELA Director General
• Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman, Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission of Malaysia
• HE Ambassador Dato’ Hsu King Bee, Permanent Mission of Malaysia to the United Nations
• Ms. Louise Arbour, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
• Dr. Homayoun Alizadeh, OHCHR Regional Representative for Southeast Asia
• UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

For more information, please contact:

Mr. Anselmo Lee, Executive Director, FORUM-ASIA, +662 391 8801,
Mr. Yap Swee Seng, Executive Director, SUARAM, +6012-2015272,