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Some 200 Burmese and Vietnamese migrants held in a Malaysian immigration camp last night rioted and attempted to set the camp’s administration office on fire.
Malaysian news agency Bernama reported that the riots were sparked by a fight between two Vietnamese inmates, although the New Straits Times claim they were protesting about poor living conditions. DVB was unable to contact anyone on the issue.
Police had also reportedly stopped an attempt by the rioters to break out of the Ajil detention camp in Terengganu state, northeastern Malaysia.
It mirrors an incident in July last year when 700 illegal Burmese migrants rioted at Malaysia’s Semenyih camp. They had earlier staged a hunger strike in protest of their denial of access to United Nations refugee officials.
The issue of Burmese migrants has been a sore point for the Malaysian government; last year it was revealed that senior Malaysian immigration officials had been complicit in the trafficking of Burmese nationals.
It is estimated that around 5,000 Burmese men, women and children migrants are being held in detention centres across Malaysia, often in poor conditions and with only sporadic access the UN officials.
Last week five Burmese children, one as young as 12, who had been held in a Malaysian camp for nearly a year were deported back to Burma. They were trafficked out of their country in July last year after their parents were tricked into handing them over to men who had promised them jobs in Rangoon, and were forced to beg on the streets of suburban Kuala Lumpur.
But a crackdown by police on beggars in the capital landed them in detention at the Tanah Merah camp, close to the Thailand border.
The Burmese embassy in Kuala Lumpur refused to finance their return to Burma, but a Burmese businessman reportedly offered to cover their travel expenses back home, and they left on a Myanmar Airways International flight on 5 June, according to Kyaw Kyaw of the exiled National League for Democracy-Liberated Area, who saw them leave.
“They seemed happy to be sent back home although I felt sorry for them because they looked really tired after just coming out of the [detention camp],” he said.
“I sympathise with their various hardships and the mental trauma they suffered in the camp. I’d be inconsolable if I saw my children in this situation. I feel sad for the children of Burma who are becoming beggars even before reaching adulthood.”
One boy arrested along with the five others remains in Malaysia, having been temporarily adopted by a Burmese NGO in Malaysia.