Killings of 5 Myanmar Workers Part of Feud Among Countrymen: Malaysian Official

Special to BenarNews
170110-MY-workers-620.jpg A Myanmar migrant worker ties a rope to a crate at a market in the town of Bukit Mertajam in Penang, Malaysia, Dec. 17, 2016.
AFP/Nur Photo

The machete-killings of five Myanmar workers in a Kuala Lumpur suburb last week stemmed from an old dispute with fellow countrymen who came from the same village in Myanmar, the police chief of Selangor state told local media Tuesday.

An investigation has ruled out that Malaysians were involved in the killings, or these were religiously motivated or done in retaliation for the alleged mistreatment of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar’s Rakhine state during a military crackdown in the predominantly Buddhist country, Selangor Police Chief Abdul Samah Mat said.

The killings were an act of revenge between Myanmar nationals from the same village whose feuding had escalated on Malaysian soil, he added without naming the village.

The five workers were hacked to death and two other Myanmar nationals were hospitalized with injuries following an assault at around 10 p.m. Thursday on 13 workers from Myanmar, as they were returning together from an overtime shift at a TV hardware factory in Bukit Serdang, a suburb of Kuala Lumpur in Selangor, according to news reports.

Local authorities have detained at least seven people in connection with Thursday’s killings, state-run Malaysian news agency Bernama reported. Four of the victims died at the scene while the fifth died in a hospital, reports said.

“We are still investigating. There was no evidence to show that it was connected to the crisis at Rakhine State or religion related,” the police chief told reporters.

“At the moment we only establish that it was a result of a fight and we are still investigating the cause of it,” he said.

Safety of Myanmar workers questioned

The police chief of Selangor also said his department would give Myanmar migrants the same level of protection given to Malaysian citizens.

Last year, at least seven Myanmar nationals working in Malaysia were killed in grisly slayings, according to a report in the Myanmar Times, and two dozen more were killed in other incidents in 2013 and 2014.

“We give them the same attention as we give our people when it comes to safety and security,” Abdul said.

Nonetheless, thousands of workers returned to Myanmar from Malaysia in 2014 after roughly 25 were killed between June 2013 and September 2014 in what some observers told Malaysian media at the time might have been linked to communal violence in Rakhine, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency said in a Dec. 7, 2016, report.

“I feel so sorry for our migrants. Our Myanmar workers are always being attacked. They have no protection,” San Win, chairman of the Kathpone Free Funeral Service Society in Kuala Lumpur, which provides free funerals for impoverished people from Myanmar, told the Myanmar Times.

On Monday, Myanmar’s government said it had sent out a safety advisory to its workers in Malaysia following last week’s killings, according to Reuters.

Bilateral tensions

Tensions between Myanmar and Malaysia have risen in recent weeks, amid criticism by Malaysian officials of Myanmar’s handling of violence in Rakhine state.

Muslim-majority Malaysia criticized Myanmar and its powerful military for alleged violent acts against Rohingya during a crackdown in northern Rakhine following deadly attacks on border guard stations in the region in early October.

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak had said that Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya amounted to “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing,” prompting Myanmar to hit back at Malaysia for meddling in its affairs.

The violence in Rakhine has caused an exodus of Rohingya into neighboring Bangladesh. On Monday, the United Nations announced that 65,000 Rohingya had crossed over since early October, with as many as 22,000 making it to the Bangladeshi side within the past week, Agence France-Presse reported.

Nearly one-half million workers

There are more than 400,000 Myanmar migrant workers in Malaysia, around 100,000 of whom are illegal workers, according to Myanmar’s embassy in Kuala Lumpur, though some estimate the number of undocumented Myanmar workers in the country at about 500,000, the report said.

Many working in the country illegally often work long hours in dangerous conditions with few means of getting better conditions or pay, it said.

Last July, the Myanmar embassy in Malaysia created a protection task force for migrant workers made up of representatives from roughly 50 civil society organizations based in the country, including the Kathpone Free Funeral Service Society, the Myanmar Times reported.

In December, the Myanmar government last December stopped sending workers to Malaysia because of safety concerns amid growing tension between the two nations over the conflict in Rakhine state.

Anis Natasha in Kuala Lumpur contributed to this report.


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