Malaysia has a number-coded underworld with names such as "04", "08", and "Double 7".
In 2013, police identified 49 illegal gangs nationwide, with nearly 40,000 known members. More than 70 per cent of felons are ethnic Indians, who make up just 7 per cent of Malaysia’s population. Though small in number, they have been linked to a wide array of crimes - such as armed robberies, drug and prostitution rings, loan-sharking, gambling and extortion rackets, and even contract killings.
101 East spoke exclusively with a senior gang member, who reveals how these criminal organizations provide protection and work opportunities for many Malay indians who live in poverty. The gangs prey on vulnerable youngsters with the lure of fast money and bonds of brotherhood.
Many of them worked in Malaysia's rubber plantations after they migrated during British colonial rule. For generations, the estates provided thousands of indian families with housing, jobs and schools. But that all changed in the 1970s when new economic policies saw private companies take over the estates, replacing rubber with oil palm and hiring cheaper foreign labour. Today, within one generation, most estate Indians have been forced into urban centres, leaving them unskilled and trapped in poverty.
While the government and the opposition trade statistics about the true extent of crime in Malaysia, the perception among locals is that the country has undoubtedly become a more dangerous place in recent years.
On this edition of 101 East , we explore the racial, social and economic divides that are fuelling gang violence in Malaysia.
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