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‘Desperate Conditions’

April 4, 2008

A new report, “Desperate Conditions: Update on Malaysia as Burma Refuge” has been released by Project Maje. It is an update on the Project Maje report “We Built This City: Workers from Burma at Risk in Malaysia” (July 2007). As reported in “Desperate Conditions” the situation for people from Burma seeking refuge and work in Malaysia has not improved at all. Raids by the Malaysian vigilante group Rela have continued and may be even more widespread. Rela activities are said to be especially violent and relentless in regions other than Kuala Lumpur, with the island of Penang especially prone to Rela raids. In addition to the abusive behavior of the government-sanctioned legitimate Rela units, the unlimited power of Rela has spawned copycat criminals who simply pose as Rela members in order to rob and extort from foreigners. Lack of police or government control of Rela continues in spite of international press coverage and pressure campaigns. Also, refugees in Malaysia express frustration with the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), whose entire interview process previously in place is said to have ground to a halt.

“Desperate Conditions” includes an account of a Kachin fugitive campsite where numerous young refugee men were trying to adapt the survival skills of their Himalayan foothills northern Burma homeland to a hidden scrub-jungle on the outskirts of suburban tropical Malaysia. It also includes a sample letter to be sent to Malaysia’s new Minister of Internal Security and Home Affairs, Datuk Syed Hamid Albar, asking him to put a stop to Rela’s “anti-foreigner activities.”

“Desperate Conditions: Update on Malaysia as Burma Refuge” can be found here.

Project Maje is an independent information project which has distributed information on Burma’s human rights and environmental issues since 1986.

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