Brave New World (The Star)
20 October 2011
Among Myanmars detained in Malaysia for immigration related offences are economic migrants as well as political refugees who left their country for fear of persecution and oppression.
FOUR years ago, scores of Myanmar citizens were killed by their government for taking part in non-violent protests which started out as a reaction to a cut in fuel subsidies.
The involvement of a large number of monks, many of whom were also beaten or killed, led this episode in Myanmar’s history to be known as the Saffron Revolution.
During the Saffron Revolution, according to the then Myanmar junta, 1,000 arrests were made (non-governmental sources put the number at many times that), but there were also many who were arrested before 2007 and many more who were arrested after.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) Burma estimates that there are currently as many as 2,000 political prisoners in Myanmar.
The AAPP also states that torture is commonplace among these political prisoners.
The people of Myanmar are among the poorest in the world, but their unhappiness is not limited to economic deprivation.
Considering the situation in Myanmar, where any sort of opposition to the authorities – be it in the form of peaceful protests, academic writing, public speaking or even artistic expression – is deemed as dissent and a political threat, it would come as no surprise that people would leave the country out of fear of persecution and oppression.
It is quite clear that human rights violations occur on a large scale in the country. Thus, people leave for reasons not limited to economics.
In this light, it is shocking to read that the Government has agreed in principle to deport Myanmar nationals who are currently detained in Malaysia for immigration-related offences.
It is possible, if not probable, that among those detained are political refugees and not economic migrants.
After all, if you are trying to escape a country due to your political views or ethnic background, necessities such as visas may not be on your to-do list.
The spin on the part of the Government is that Malaysians detained in Myanmar would be returned here, so it’s not simply a deportation exercise but a “swap”.
I would like to know how many Malaysians are actually detained in Myanmar.
I mean what would possess a Malaysian to enter Myanmar illegally? To get a high-paying job because Myanmar is so much more developed than Malaysia?
Or perhaps it’s a bunch of folk who went to Chiang Mai (Thailand) but overshot a little bit and went too far west?
It would be inhumane to have a blanket arrangement with Myanmar to return those detained here.
We cannot be sure what fate awaits them.
The act of sending people back to a country, which we know as such a harsh and intolerant regime, is simply unethical behaviour.