12 November 2010
Malaysia must stop criminalizing migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers

The account below is of a 22-year-old ethnic Karen man from Myanmar who was detained in Malaysia. Sentenced to caning and sent to prison, he has since been recognized as a refugee by The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) but not by the Malaysian government.

“I left Myanmar for Malaysia because of the military regime.  Once in Malaysia, I worked in many different places—in a paper factory, planting flowers, in a restaurant, an oil palm plantation and in a car wash where I as arrested during a RELA raid.  That was in May 2008.

After my arrest, I spent three hours in a police station.  Then I was sent to the Lenggeng detention camp. 

In Lenggeng, there were insects that bit us all the time.  They bit me all over.  No mattresses were provided; we slept on the wooden platforms.   We were only given a blanket and a mug. 

After 15 days, I was sent to court.  I did not understand what was going on because there was no translator.  A Chin from Myanmar translated for me when I was questioned by the judge. 

The judge asked where I was from, to which I replied.  He did not ask whether I was registered with the UNHCR or not.  When he asked why I had come to Malaysia, I said it was because of money.  When he told me to return to my country, I said I did not have a passport or any money that would allow me to return.  The judge then asked me if what I had done was “salah” (wrong), and I said yes.  I was sentenced to a month in jail and one strike of “rotan” (caning/whipping). 

On the day I was caned, they removed all my clothing except for a small piece of cloth to cover my penis.  It was like a trouser but with the buttocks area cut off.  They tied me up.  I was hit once very hard with a cane.  It cut my skin and hurt very much.  There was blood.  I could not wear any proper clothing for five days after the caning because of the pain and because it stuck to my cut.  I still have nightmares about it.  I cannot bear thinking about it.  I am very afraid that I may be whipped again if caught.”

Having served his sentence, he was deported to the Thai border, where he was trafficked back into Malaysia after paying the traffickers 2,200 ringgit (US$600). At the time of this interview with Amnesty International, he was working as an undocumented migrant in Malaysia.

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