AIPMC statement on detainees’ “swap” between Malaysia and Myanmar

20 October 2011

AIPMC notes with serious concern recent developments of the Malaysian government’s plan to implement the ‘detainees exchange program’ with Myanmar. This plan will result around 1,000 people from Myanmar, detained in Malaysia, deported from the country.

There will be a possibility of persecution for those who are sent back to Myanmar.

Those who flee Myanmar, namely ethnic and other persecuted minorities, remain at risk from persecution of all forms – forced labour, land confiscation, rape, and torture among them – should they continue to live under the military regime. Thus, they risk their lives to find asylum in neighboring states, in pursuit of a dignified, secure and peaceful life elsewhere.

We wish to reiterate that such a ‘swap deal’, which would see Burmese nationals returned to persecution in their homeland, serves political interests well ahead of these exceedingly serious human rights concerns.

Contrary to the principles of international law upon which ASEAN is founded, such an agreement would only further jeopardize the dignity and security of Burmese refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia – who should be considered among the region’s most vulnerable.

Thus, the AIPMC calls for a halt to any such ‘swap deal’ plans, until effective systems be put in place to ensure that such refugees and asylum seekers are protected from persecution upon their return to Myanmar. The human rights situation in Myanmar, grievous as it remains, is unlikely to be able to ensure such protections, without which Malaysia cannot hope to fulfill its international obligations to ensure that human rights of refugees be protected.

We also note with concern that the Malaysian Government has, in recent months, further completed the registration under the 6P programme.

There must be a total change in the Malaysian government’s approach and policy with regard to the grave issue of the Burmese refugees in the country. As a first step the Malaysian government should accord them recognition as refugees.

There should be a timely and efficient refugee registration process to give certainty to refugees with regards to their in-country status to protect their rights. We also call upon the Malaysian government to ensure that detainees are provided access to both representatives from legal and non-government organizations, as they embark on a long route to ensuring their inherent rights are formally recognized when lodging asylum claims.

Finally, we strongly urge the Malaysian government to ensure that all refugee registrations be undertaken in full collaboration with the UNHCR, which consistently act to ensure the rights of refugees are both explicitly recognized and protected.

(Statement as Chair of the Malaysian Caucus of the AIPMC)

  1. #1 by Jeffrey on Friday, 21 October 2011 - 12:47 am

    According to AIPMC, Malaysian government should ensure timely and efficient refugee registration process in full collaboration with the UNHCR & NGO/stakeholders. Hishammuddin already assured the swap deal would not affect Myanmarese detainees who are eligible for refugee protection and U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees’ spokeswoman in Malaysia, Yante Ismail said that UNHCR currently had “good access” to such refugees. At practical level is this true? UNHCR registered 87,000 but there could be easily more tan 350,000 Myanmarese all over the place holed up in urban & remote places trying to escape errant authorities harassing and feeding on them. We are neither signatory to UN’s1951 Refugee Convention nor do we have any legislative (eg asylum laws) or administrative framework for dealing with refugees. Our Immigration Act labels all without proper documents as illegals and they are therefore fair game for arrest, so they go into hiding.

  2. #2 by Jeffrey on Friday, 21 October 2011 - 12:48 am

    When caught they are detained in squalid and over-crowded conditions arguably worse than if they were to go back. When NGO like Tenaganita’s Irene Fernandez highlighted their plight in a memorandum “Abuse, Torture and Dehumanised Treatment of Migrant Workers at the Detention Camps”, she was charged instead under Section 8A(1) of the Printing and Publications Act 1984 for spreading “false news”! Then we have signatory to UN’s1951 Refugee Convention like Australia which instead of accepting their re-settlement pay money to Malaysia instead to process and re-settle them elsewhere but where else want them? Why in April 2008 Myanmarese detainees rioted in their camp, torching a building, after hearing they had been denied asylum in a third country? Because here the conditions are unbearable as compared to being sent back.

  3. #3 by Jeffrey on Friday, 21 October 2011 - 1:01 am

    ///Those who flee Myanmar, namely ethnic and other persecuted minorities, remain at risk from persecution of all forms – forced labour, land confiscation, rape, and torture among them – should they continue to live under the military regime///- AIPMC. I think AIPMC should re-evaluate this assumption: (1) when they fled Mynamar under genuine fear of being tortured or killed it does not mean the same threat prevails now that the Military Junta allows them to go back in a swap. (2) Why would Military Junta want to voluntarily take back thousands supposedly against them just so to torture and kill them? May as well let them be here or elsewhere where they cannot and do not present a threat or force against it. Its not that they are all of caliber of Aung San Suu Kyi who could mobilize masses & threaten the Junta from here that they need to be sent back to be exterminated! (3) they are wanted back because Junta wants to show a more liberal/democratic face to ameliorate sanctions, make money, maybe earn ASEAN chair in 2014. After all they did release Suu Kyi from house arrest, didn’t they? (4) it is more inhumane to keep them in overcrowded camps with aids/dengue here! Hishammuddin knows that we don’t have the resources, and would end up violating more human rights than sending them back.

  4. #4 by monsterball on Friday, 21 October 2011 - 9:23 am

    Myanmar citizens are Buddhists and Christians.
    If it is Gaddafi guys….all Muslims…just watch our champion of Islam do their wonderful humanitarian work….for Islam.

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