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Malaysia detains Myanmar migrants over deaths

Murders in Kuala Lumpur raise concerns that sectarian violence in Myanmar is spilling over into neighbouring Malaysia.

Last Modified: 05 Jun 2013 12:02
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Malaysia has long attracted asylum seekers fleeing violence in neighbouring Myanmar [Reuters]

Malaysian police have detained dozens of people from Myanmar following four killings in the Malaysian capital in a number of incidents suspected of being linked to sectarian violence in Myanmar.

About 60 people have been held for questioning in recent days, according to Amar Singh Ishar Singh, Kuala Lumpur's deputy police chief.

In Myanmar, the Muslims are the victims, over here the Buddhists are the victims.

Amar Singh Ishar Singh
Deputy Police Chief of Kuala Lumpur

The killing of four Myanmar migrants in a number of separate incidents in Kuala Lumpur this past week has raised concerns that tensions between Myanmar's Buddhists and Muslim Rohingya minority are spilling over to the neighbouring Southeast Asian country, where hundreds of thousands of Myanmar nationals have come to seek work and refuge.

The killings include a man fatally slashed while sleeping in a car wash centre and another attacked by people with sharp objects in a marketplace, according to media reports.

Malaysia's Bernama state news agency said the 20-year-old victim was sleeping at the car wash when he was attacked by 10 people.

It quoted police as saying a man and a woman also suffered injuries in the attack.

All the victims were Buddhists from Myanmar, said Singh, the city's deputy police chief. 

"We have a feedback that this may be Myanmar Buddhists and Muslims having a spillover here in Kuala Lumpur," he said.

"In Myanmar, the Muslims are the victims, over here the Buddhists are the victims."

Myanmar refugees

Singh said the police had set up a special task force to deal with the violence in Kuala Lumpur and had arrested about 60 Myanmar immigrants this week in an attempt to control tensions. 

Anti-Muslim violence in Buddhist-dominated Myanmar erupted in western Rakhine State last year and has spread into the central heartlands and areas near the old capital, Yangon, this year.

Thousands of Rohingya Muslims have fled from the country to escape the violence and worsening living conditions, many of them making their way by boat or overland to Muslim-majority Malaysia.

Malaysia's has allowed them to stay but without giving them legal status, meaning that most struggle to find work or access to hospitals and schools.

The total number of Myanmar immigrants in Malaysia is estimated at about 400,000.

The UN refugee agency said about 23,000 Rohingyas are registered as refugees in Malaysia, but groups representing them say the real number of Muslim immigrants is much higher and has surged this year because of the violence.

In April, Muslim and Buddhist refugees from Myanmar clashed at a refugee camp in Indonesia in a riot in which eight people were killed and 15 were wounded, media reported.

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