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Ethnic-based clashes in Myanmar spill over to streets of Kuala Lumpur

By RASHVINJEET
S.BEDI 
June 11, 2013 
PETALING JAYA: 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 Rohingya Arakanese Refugee Committee (RARC) program co-ordinator took a
chance and went back to work at a Myanmarese restaurant near Kotaraya.
However, when he
arrived there, he was pursued by two people who appeared to want to do him
harm.
These were people
whom he knew personally, and both happened to be Buddhists.
“They were
once my friends, but not anymore. We used to work on political issues together
but the issue has now gone back to religion,” said Safiq, who is staying
put at home for the time being.
Several violent
clashes between Buddhist and Muslim Myanmar nationals have occurred in the
Klang Valley, resulting in the death of two and another two in critical
condition.
Mohd Sadek claims
he was targeted because of his work with the Muslim Rohingya community,
considered by the United Nations to be one of the world’s most-persecuted
minorities.
However, mindful
that sectarian violence could touch a nerve with local communities, police have
been quick to clamp down on any incidents here.
Last Friday,
Malaysian police detained more than 1,000 Myanmarese workers in Sentul, Cheras,
Brickfields and Dang Wangi.
The clashes in
Malaysia reportedly started in Selayang before spreading to other parts of the
Klang Valley.
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, and tensions were re-ignited again last October and
more clashes took place in March this year.
“The Myanmar
government is committing genocide against the Rohingya,” claimed Sadek.
There have also
been a number of sectarian clashes between the Burmese majority and other
minority groups such as the Karen, Shan and Chin.
Myanmar is a
predominantly Buddhist country, but approximately five percent of its 60
million inhabits (about three million) are Muslims.
Selayang MP William
Leong Jee Keen said that Malaysians are concerned with this issue because they
are many Myanmar nationals living here, especially in Selayang.
He added that based
on the testimony of the victims, these attacks were not committed by armed and
organised groups.
“If they start
chopping one another, our locals could also be wrongly targeted,” he said,
adding that the Myanmar nationals deserved protection.
There are an
estimated 400,000 Myanmar nationals in the country those with refugee status or
working here legally or illegally. Most are working in the restaurant and
construction sectors.
As of May this
year, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has registered
some 28,120 Rohingya asylum-seekers and refugees in Malaysia.
Malaysia is a
favoured destination for the Rohingya, whom the Myanmar government classifies
as Bangladeshi immigrants and have been denied citizenship of the country.
Sadek pinned the
blame on the infamous 969 movement in Myanmar, a radical right-leaning Buddhist
organisation.
“We are here
on humanitarian grounds and don’t want to trouble Malaysians,” he said.
An official from an
NGO working with refugees says there has not been much information regarding
violence in Malaysia, but said some attacks have been indiscriminate, targeting
anyone from Myanmar.
He gave the example
of a Christian refugee from Myanmar who suffered a broken hand and injuries to
his eye and face.
President of the
Burma Campaign Malaysia, Tun Tun looks disparagingly on the recent clashes
here.
“We have been
living and working peacefully together all this while. We are foreigners and
must follow Malaysian law,” he said.
He claims that the
Myanmar government is trying to create trouble ahead of the upcoming 2015
elections.
In the 2012 Burmese
by-elections, the main opposition party National League for Democracy (NLD),
won 43 out of 44 seats it contested from a total of 46 seats.
Tun Tun explained
that the government wanted to put democracy icon and NLD general secretary Aung
San Syu Kyi in a difficult situation.
“Aung San Syu
Kyi can’t speak out for the Rohingyas because the Buddhist majority might not
support her then,” he said.
 
Tun Tun claims that
many Myanmar workers in Malaysia have posted anti- Muslim messages on social
networking sites.