By LAWI WENG Thursday, July 2, 2009
Eight Burmese detainees were wounded after a small riot broke out at the Semenyih Immigration camp near Kajang Township, in Malaysia on Wednesday.
Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Thursday, Aung Lwin Oo, one of the detainees involved in the riot at the camp, said the trouble started at 8pm after camp authorities beat 30 detainees who were refusing to board a truck that was to take them to another camp.
The detainees began breaking up the walls of their rooms and throwing plates at security officers, demanding prison authorities release the 30 people who had been loaded onto the truck.
The police used tear gas to break up the riot.
“We are very angry after we heard they had beaten and forced fellow prisoners to get on a truck and be moved another camp. When they came for them they said it was only to meet officials from the UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees],” he said.
Aung Lwin Oo was in hiding as he talked to The Irrawaddy by phone from the camp. Camp authorities ban the use of mobile phones.
“On Tuesday, two Burmese detainees were also seriously beaten when they went to the clinic to ask for medicine. One detainee was beaten around the eyes,” Lwin Oo reported.
“We don’t know if he will regain his vision because his eyes are filled with blood. At the moment he can’t see,” he said. “The other detainee suffered cigarette burns on his body and is in serious condition now.”
Yante Ismail, a spokesperson for the UNHCR based in Kuala Lumpur told The Irrawaddy, Thursday, that a group from UNHCR left for the camp that morning to investigate the riot.
She said that she was unable to provide any further details on what happened at the camp.
The Malaysian National News Agency announced on their Bernama website that no one was injured during the riot and that the situation was under control.
According to Burmese rights groups in Malaysia, there are about 700 Burmese detainees at the Semenyih Immigration camp. They are accusing camp authorities of keeping people who have already served sentences in detention.
Roi Mon, a member of the Mon Refugees Organization based in Malaysia, said that inmates do not have enough food and water, and the camp is crowded because the authorities have refused to release detainees.
Meanwhile, in its annual Trafficking in Persons Report 2009 released in June, the US State Department put Malaysia back on the Tier 3 blacklist for its record of abuse and exploitation of migrant workers. Malaysia joins 16 other countries including Burma, North Korea, Sudan and Zimbabwe on the blacklist.
The report accused Malaysia authorities of deporting Burmese detainees to the Thai-Malaysia border and selling them to human traffickers, who then demanded ransoms for their release.
If payments were not made, the victims would be forced to work as slave labor on fishing boats in Thailand and Indonesia, and women could be forced to work as prostitutes in brothels.
Malaysian authorities have disputed the report’s conclusions.
According to the Kuala Lumpur-based Burma Workers’ Rights Protection Committee, about 500,000 Burmese migrants work in Malaysia, legally and illegally.