Malaysia has stepped up law enforcement to prevent ethnic clashes within the Myanmar community from spreading. Sectarian violence in the community left four people dead in Kuala Lumpur. Malaysian police arrested over a thousand Myanmar nationals in the past week.
MALAYSIA: Malaysia has stepped up law enforcement to prevent ethnic clashes within the Myanmar community from spreading.
Sectarian violence in the community left four people dead in Kuala Lumpur. Malaysian police arrested over a thousand Myanmar nationals in the past week.
32-year-old Mohd Rafik fled Myanmar's Rakhine state three months ago, after he was allegedly attacked by members of the so-called 969 radical group.
Now being treated in Kuala Lumpur for severe slash wounds, Mr Rafik’s hope is to start his life anew in Malaysia.
He said: "I hope to bring my family over one day, unless the situation improves in Myanmar.”
But now, it seems the violence that Mr Rafik was trying to escape has followed him to Malaysia and clashes over the last two weeks have left four people dead.
Malaysia is home to one the largest Rohingya communities in the region. Although the UNHCR said there are 23,000 registered Rohingya refugees in the country, human rights groups said the unregistered ones are twice as many.
Some have lived and worked in Malaysia for ages and they too condemned the recent spate of violent clashes. They deny that the violence was started by Rohingya seeking revenge against Myanmar nationals working in the country.
Abdul Ghani Abdul Rahman, deputy president of Rohingya Society of Malaysia, said: "Do you think that we dare and are bold enough to attack them in a country of others? We came here to get shelter and to have a safer place for Rohingya to stay. Rohingya have never fought, even though Rohingya have lost their family members. A lot of relatives have been killed by the Myanmar (nationals), killed by the Rakhine people.”
There are close to half a million Myanmar nationals in Malaysia, working mostly in factories, restaurants and other service industries.
Leaders of Myanmar's ethnic minorities are calling for a peace dialogue to condemn the deadly clashes that are threatening to jeopardise their status in their host country, Malaysia.
Mr Ghani said: "Malaysians are kind enough towards refugees. This way, our refugees need to understand not to bring this problem from Myanmar to here."
Malaysian Home Minister Zahid Hamidi has warned of tougher action against troublemakers.
He has asked the UNHCR to work closely with enforcement agencies to contain the situation.
He said: "The ethnic cleansing efforts are not part of Malaysia’s culture. We want the UNHCR to cooperate more with the police and immigration authorities in order to prevent recurrences, if indeed they want to protect the Myanmar refugees. They should work with the authorities so that Malaysia is not seen as a country that's lax in enforcement."
The UNHCR has said it is still assessing the situation, even as thousands of asylum seekers, reportedly from Myanmar, are still being held in detention centres across the country