20 April 2007: CHRO welcomes Malaysia’s recent statements indicating a refusal to defend Burma in future engagements on the international stage. To further this objective, CHRO calls on Malaysia to protect and respect the rights of the thousands of Burmese refugees living within its borders.
On 19 April 2007, Malaysia’s Foreign Ministry Parliamentary Secretary, Ahmad Shabery Cheek, told reporters that Malaysia along with other ASEAN members agreed not to shield Burma from attacks “if it was bombarded at any international forum.” Justifying this position, Shabery recognized the continued illegitimacy of Burma’s military rulers indicating that Burma failed to show any progress towards reform.
Despite Malaysia’s hard foreign policy stance on Burma’s military regime, Malaysia’s domestic policy fails to recognize or provide any sort of protection to the very people who have suffered under Burma’s rule- the Burmese refugee community. Tens of thousands of Burmese refugees and asylum seekers, including some 23,000 from Burma’s Chinland, have found themselves in Malaysia after being forced from their homes at the hands of Burma’s military regime.
Although a signatory to the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and a sitting member of the UN Human Rights Council, the Malaysia government has consistently refused to protect refugees and asylum seekers living within their borders. Rather, the Burmese communities in Malaysia have been the regular target of security abuses, immigration raids and round-ups, increasing violent crimes committed in impunity, and abuses against the most vulnerable members of their community, including women and children.
Immigration raids targeting Burmese communities occur on an almost weekly basis in Malaysia, typically conducted by the highly controversial, untrained and often abusive Peoples’ Volunteer Corp., also known as RELA. Malaysian immigration detention facilities currently hold about 2,000 Burmese asylum seekers and refugees, about half of which are Chins. Of particular concern to CHRO are the continuing arrests of pregnant women and minors. At this time, CHRO is aware of five pregnant Chin women who were recently arrested, two of whom were forced to give birth in detention. All five are remain in detention despite their vulnerable states. According to CHRO’s sources, there are also about 20 Chin children, some as young as less than a month old, detained in Malaysian detention facilities.
For Malaysia to make good on its foreign policy initiatives towards Burma, Malaysia should first look at domestically and make good on its promise to respect the basic human rights of refugees and asylum seekers who are the victims of Burma’s military regime.