Thursday, June 13, 2013

Clashes between Myanmar nationals could spell trouble for Malaysia

 
Busy bees: Myanmar nationals doing business near the Selayang wholesale market. Busy bees: Myanmar nationals doing business near the Selayang wholesale market.
 
FOR the past two weeks, Myanmar national Muhammad Sadek, 41, has not stepped out of his house, for fear of losing his life.
However, on Monday, the Rohing-ya Arakanese Refugee Committee (RARC) programme co-ordinator took a chance and went back to work at a Myanmarese restaurant near Kotaraya here.
When he arrived there, he was shocked to be confronted and chased by two other Myanmar nationals who were once his friends. He believes their relationship had been affected because he is Muslim and they are Buddhists and this had provoked the attack.
Just weeks ago, Sadek said he did not have any known enemies here.
“They were once my friends, but not anymore. We used to work together on political issues but now we are being divided because we follow different religions,” said Sadek, who is back to staying put at home.
Seven clashes were reported involving Myanmar nationals in the Klang Valley between May 30 and June 4. Two people have died and two others are reported to be in a critical condition.
The police now have to hunt down the murderers and bring them to justice immediately.
But what is really going on among Myanmar nationals in Malaysia?
Are we sitting on an explosive powder keg or are these just isolated incidents that are being blown out of proportion?
Malaysia has to take such incidents seriously because we could be caught in the crossfire.
Mindful that sectarian violence could touch a nerve with the local community, the police have been quick to clamp down on further incidents by rounding up 1,000 Myanmar nationals.
There are an estimated 400,000 Myanmar nationals in the country legal, illegal and refugees. Many of them work in restaurants and at construction sites.
Large scale clashes between them could spell a lot of trouble for Malaysia.
There could even be Malaysians who could be mistaken for Myanmar nationals and attacked.
The violence has been linked to recent clashes in Myanmar between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in the western state of Rakhine.
Thousands of people, mostly Rohingyas, have been displaced by the clashes, when entire Muslim neighbourhoods were reportedly razed.
The clashes first started in June last year, with further violent outbreaks occurring last October and in March this year.
The alleged conflicts in Malaysia are believed to have started at the Selayang wholesale market, which is known to have many Myanmar nationals. There have been reports of fights among them, although not necessarily linked to religion.
With their large population at the market, whatever they do is bound to affect local workers and residents, who are also eking out a living.
Since its independence from Britain in 1947, the country has frequently seen sectarian clashes between the majority and minority groups such as the Karen, Shan and Chin.
Myanmar is a predominantly Buddhist country, but about 5% or about three million of its 60 million people are Muslims.
“The Myanmar government is committing genocide against the Rohingyas,” claimed Sadek.
His counterpart Tun Tun of the Burma Campaign Malaysia said Myanmar nationals generally wanted peace and they should work together to ensure tensions in their home country are not allowed to infringe on the harmony they have found in the safe haven of Malaysia.
“We are happy and lovely people. We have been living and working peacefully together all this while,” he said.