Source :- Free Malaysia Today

September 5, 2011

Refugees in Malaysia want to escape to Australia as Malaysia is a hell-hole for them. Here they face persecution, torture and detention,  says Charles Santiago.

Now that the mysterious froth covering the refugee swap deal has bubbled over, we have both the Malaysian and Australian governments cracking their heads to work around Australia’s High Court decision which ruled the deal illegal.

In a move that would leave hundreds of boatpeople in a limbo, Australia had hoped to send 800 asylum seekers to Malaysia in exchange for re-settling 4,000 of its refugees over the next four years.

And under the deal wrapped by Immigration Minister Chris Bowen and Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia would be paid a cool $290 million Aussie dollars as processing and relocation fees.

The judged ruled that under Australia’s Migration Act, the government could not send asylum seekers to be processed in a country unless the country is compelled to offer adequate protection.

A summary of the court judgment said that “the country must be legally bound by international law or its own domestic law to provide protection for asylum seekers pending determination of their refugee status. In addition to these criteria, the Migration Act requires that the country meet certain human rights standards in providing that protection”.

This is definitely a slap on Malaysia’s face. And it came on Merdeka Day.

So now it’s clear that the Australian High Court thinks Malaysia is an unsafe destination for refugees. This is definitely not a pretty picture for the country.

But again why would the court ruling be otherwise? The Umno-led coalition government is yet to ratify the 1951 UN Refugee Convention or the UN Convention Against Torture.

According to Amnesty International more than 6,000 refugees are caned every year and Malaysia is a reluctant host to 100,000 refugees. The Barisan Nasional government is not even prepared to accommodate 17,000 refugee kids in schools.

Non-ratification of the Convention also means the status of asylum seekers and refugees are not recognized by the government. This extends to the police, Rela and the immigration.

Asylum seekers processed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) would be given identification cards. The Kuala Lumpur government does not give a toss about this identification.

Refugees continue to be hunted down by the immigration officers and Rela, forcing them to do odd jobs on the quiet for paltry wages. They live sandwiched in tiny rooms and usually in jungles to avoid being nabbed and are at times sold to human traffickers by the immigration and Rela officers.

To nip human trafficking?

Malaysia has not uttered a word about the possibility of recognizing the asylum seekers, not even the 800 who would have been sent over forcefully by Australia if the deal had gone through.

While the court decision caricatures Malaysia’s appalling treatment of its refugees, it has also left Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s image in tatters. Gillard, who leads the nation with a mere one-seat majority, is at the risk of losing her top job.

Officials from both countries were in Kuala Lumpur late July to ink the memorandum of understanding to push for the refugee transfer program. It was packaged to demonstrate that the deal would nip human trafficking in the bud.

This is highly illogical and illustrates the foolishness of both countries. Refugees in Malaysia want to escape to Australia as Malaysia is a hell-hole for them. I am not mincing my words. Here they face persecution, torture and detention.

Australia, a nation which has ratified the convention, shamelessly indulged in a criminal act by attempting to send the boat people to Malaysia.

Malaysia would continue to attract refugees who are fleeing their home lands fearing persecution. These people could come from Burma, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Palestine or Afghanistan.

Signing deals with governments to trade refugees would not work. A durable Malaysian solution must start with the government ratifying the 1951 UN Refugee Convention.

Anything which falls short of this would only spell disaster for Malaysia’s already-crumbling human rights record.

Charles Santigo is DAP’s Klang MP.

By Kean Wong



By Gareth


By Phyo Win Latt





Source : Malaysiakini

Christine Chan
Oct 17, 09

Images of refugees in deplorable living conditions, poignant facial expressions, distraught children form the gist of the work of five international photojournalists who documented the lives of Burmese refugees in Malaysia.

A rare exhibition titled ‘No Refuge: Burmese Refugees in Malaysia’ depicting the conditions of refugees was launched yesterday at The Annexe Gallery in Kuala Lumpur’s Central Market.

no refugee exhibition 151009-07.jpgThe exhibition will last until the Oct 25.

“The work of Greg Constantine (USA), Halim Berbar (France), Rahman Roslan (Malaysia), Simon Wheatley (UK) and Zhang Wubin (Singapore) reveals the underside of the most marginalised people in Malaysia,” said Klang member of parliament, Charles Santiago.

In his speech when opening the event, he said that a report had been published by the US Department of State on trafficking activities in Malaysia, where refugees were sold at the Thai and Malaysia’s border.

no refugee exhibition 151009-08.jpg“In the report, refugees who are now residing in the US, and who once lived in Malaysia, were interviewed and they have one thing in common. All of them have been sold,” he told a crowd of 60 people.

He also accused the government of being in denial on the issues of human trafficking.

Kicking them when down

klscah launch civil society award 191207 charles santiagoHowever, Santiago (right) credited the government for taking some action to arrest traffickers in the last couple of months.

“But this will not solve the problem because trafficking is a systemic collaboration of government officers and syndicates, therefore we need to fix this at the level of structure and enforcement,” he adds.

Arts programme director of The Annexe, Pang Khee Teik, in commenting on the trafficking and the harsh living conditions, said that this was akin to ‘kicking them when they are down’.

“This is what Malaysias are doing to the refugees,” he said.

no refugee exhibition 151009-02.jpgThe audience were also treated to a performance by two Burmese musicians.

Thiam Pui, a refugee from the Chin state sang about how much she misses her country and she was accompanied by Sang Kawn, another refugee from the Mon state who played the guitar.

No protection for refugees

Santiago also launched a nationwide petition campaign by Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) entitled “Sign the Refugee Convention and Stop the Arrest, Detention and Deportation of Refugees”.

no refugee exhibition 151009-01.jpgSuaram is expecting to collect at least 10,000 signatures from Malaysians by May 21, 2010 to be submitted to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.

This is a move to ensure that refugees are recognised and given better access to livelihood and to encourage cooperation between the government and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR).

Unfortunately, Malaysia is one of the few remaining countries that has ratified neither the 1951 Refugee Convention nor the 1967 Protocol and it has also failed to enact any legislation for the protection of refugees.

no refugee exhibition 151009-05.jpgRefugees, adults and children alike, are instead treated as ‘illegal immigrants’ and are subjected to harsh penalties, detention and deportation under the Immigration Act.

They risk fines of up to RM10,000 or jail terms of up to five years or both. They are also liable to be whipped up to six strokes of the cane.

Burmese Refugees in Malaysia

A photography exhibition

You are cordially invited to
No Refuge Exhibition Opening
Thu 15 Oct, 2009, 8pm
Officiated by YB Charles Santiago, MP for Klang,
who will also launch a petition campaign to get the Malaysian Government to recognise refugees and to sign the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.


Photo by Simon Wheatley

Thu 15 – Sun 25 Oct, 2009
Presented by SUARAM & The Annexe Gallery
Featuring works by Greg Constantine (USA), Halim Berbar (France), Rahman Roslan (Malaysia), Simon Wheatley (UK) & Zhang Wubin (Singapore)

The images of NO REFUGE are photojournalistic documents of the living conditions of a people who are forced to flee to our hospitable country, but have yet to find refuge or hope here.
When one complains about human rights abuses in Malaysia, many Malaysians like to claim that at least we are better off than Burma. That is however not true for Burmese refugees in Malaysia. They may have escaped the horrors of living under the military rule of the junta in Burma, but here in Malaysia they live a life of fear all over again. As Malaysia is not a signatory of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, Burmese refugees do not have rights in this country. Because of this, they cannot get work (out of desperation, many risk their lives accepting dangerous jobs at construction sites – and many die on these jobs), they have no access to healthcare (many also perish from trying to survive in unhygienic and rough conditions), their children have no access to education, and they are subject to all sorts of inhumane abuses, both by the authorities and other Malaysians.

Forced to hide in crammed apartments or makeshift encampments in forests, the refugees live in constant fear of being detained by the Malaysian police, immigration officers and RELA volunteers. When caught, they are often abused, extorted for money, or sent to overcrowded and unhygienic detention centres. Sometimes they are even sold to human traffickers for ransom or as slave labour or prostitutes. As the deplorable situation of Burmese refugees in Malaysia gains international attention, it’s high time for us to examine the human suffering we are causing.

Parts of the proceeds of the sale of the photographs will be channeled to SUARAM’s campaign to advocate for the rights of refugees.

Photograph by Greg Constantine. This 38-year-old woman fled from Burma and has been living in Malaysia for several years. She was arrested during a RELA raid in Kuala Lumpur in 2006. She spent months in Malaysian jails and detention centers. While incarcerated she became ill but was denied medical care. Eventually, she was taken to the Thai border and deported into the arms of human traffickers. After paying 1500 Malaysian Ringgit to an agent in Thailand, she was smuggled back into Malaysia.

Talk by Photographers and Activists
Sun 18 Oct, 3pm
Come hear the stories, as witnessed and shared by those who document and work with Burmese refugees, of how these already downtrodden peoples are being treated in our country. As one hears the horrific stories of abuse, it is easy to feel ashamed to be Malaysian. But let us also be inspired by acts of compassion and courage. Let’s figure out how we can help those who need our help.


Photograph by Halim Berbar. Due to the ordeal of escaping Burma and living as a refugee in Malaysia, the man in this picture fell into a depression and eventually took his own life.
Click here for more images and information.

English version :  Modern Day Human Slavery in Malaysia: National Shame and Government in Denial



早在一年前,政府已被告知国内贩卖人口活动猖獗。NTV7电台的报导、国会提出的问题、政党的批评,以及两个月前理查.鲁格(Richard Lugar)在美国参议院外交关系委员会所发表的“马来西亚和泰国南部的贩卖和强迫缅甸移民报告”。

内政部 – 撒谎和否认









大马妇女和女孩, 特别是原住民社群,被贩卖到国内不同地点从事劳动和性工作。




一旦被列入第三级名单,大马将可能面临美国的制裁,包括不能从国际金融机构获得国际贷款 ,公务员不再能享有富布赖特奖学金和其它美国教育和文化活动援助。








Press Statement by Member of Parliament Klang Charles Santiago in Parliament on 18th June 2009

The US State Department Annual ‘Trafficking in Persons Report 2009′, condemnation of Malaysia should not come as a surprise. In fact, the Malaysian authorities should have anticipated it coming.

The Malaysian government was put on notice a year ago on active trafficking in persons in the country by local NGOs, questions raised in parliament, political parties and two months ago by the Richard Lugar (the US Ranking Minority Member) report entitled ‘Trafficking and Extortion of Burmese Migrants in Malaysia and Southern Thailand’

a) Ministry of Home Affairs – Lies and Denial

On 3rd May, 2008, an NTV 7 documentary entitled ‘Refugee for Sale’ exposed the selling and trafficking of Burmese refugees and migrants in detention camps in the Malaysia-Thai border. The report implicated Malaysian immigration officials as part of the network involved in human trafficking.

In July 2008, I asked a parliamentary question on this scandal and the Ministry of Home Affairs replied by saying that a special committee would be established to investigate the accusation and would get further information from NTV 7.

In October, 2008, I posited a second question on the outcome of the special committee’s investigation and was told that there was no basis to the accusations that immigration officials were working together with traffickers.

Was the NTV 7s producer contacted by the special committee? No. The producer was not contacted for further information and evidence. Thus what was the basis of saying that there was no basis to the accusation?

Clearly, the then Home Minister misled Parliament and Nation.

In fact, the Lugar report which outlined numerous instances of collaboration between immigration officials and traffickers was also met with the similar denial.

This complete shirking of responsibility in the face of convincing evidence reflects poorly on the integrity of Malaysian institutions. This is another feature of a failing state.

b) Trafficking of Malaysian Women and Children Locally and Abroad Highlighted in the TIP Report.

The report identifies Malaysia as a destination, transit and source of human slavery.

There are two sets of trafficked people: a) women and children for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation; and, b) men, women and children for the purpose of forced labor.

Malaysian women and girls especially from indigenous communities are trafficked within the country for labor and commercial sexual exploitation.

Furthermore, Malaysian Chinese women including indigenous women from rural areas are trafficked abroad to destinations such as Singapore, Hong Kong, France, and the UK for commercial and sexual exploitation.

The report states that local employment agencies including immigration authorities actively collaborate with human traffickers as in the Thai-Malaysia borders involving Burmese refugees and migrant workers in detention camps.

The report categorically notes that the Malaysian government does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.

Malaysia has been placed in Tier 3 which has ramifications for securing international loans from multilateral financial bodies and eliminates all opportunities for civil servants to take advantage of Fulbright Scholarships and other educational and cultural exchanges with the US.

Malaysia’s credibility on the international stage is at stake. If the Home Ministry fails to take decisive action, Malaysia bears the humiliation of being lumped with North Korea, Burma, Sudan and Zimbabwe in human trafficking

I call upon the newly minted Minister of Home Affairs to immediately set-up an independent task force including civil society organizations or a parliamentary select committee to address these troubling concerns.

Also, the government should actively implement the Anti-trafficking Law, ASEAN’s Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers and the immediate ratification of the UN 1967 Refugee Convention and the 2000 UN TIP (Trade in Persons) Protocol for the proper legal recognition of refugees within our borders – with a view to protect and promote the rights of migrants and refugees in the country and region.

The complicity of Malaysian authorities in human slavery should be an embarrassment to all Malaysians.

Charles Santiago

Member of Parliament Klang

Vice-Chairman of Selangor DAP


Soalan : Tuan Charles Santiago [Klang] minta Menteri Dalam Negeri menyatakan penyiasatan Senat Amerika Syarikat mengenai human trafficking di Malaysia oleh pegawai kerajaan. Adakah dakwaan Senat Amerika Syarikat benar dan apakah cadangan Kementerian untuk membuktikan bahawa dakwaan ini tidak betul.

Jawapan :

tip1 tip2tip3

Source : IPS

By Baradan Kuppusamy
KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 26 (IPS) – A scandalous trade in Burmese migrant labour involving Malaysian and Thai officials and international human traffickers is now coming to light.
Like thousands of Burmese migrant workers That Zin Myint travelled overland from Rangoon to Bangkok and reached the Thai border where local syndicates, for a hefty bribe, helped him cross into northern Malaysia and move overland to the capital where cheap, unskilled labour is in great demand.

‘’Don’t take my photographs… they will come after me,’’ Zin Myint said, referring to Malaysian authorities who now closely monitor local and overseas publications for anti-Malaysia sentiments expressed by migrant workers. On arrival Zin Myint ‘celebrated’ with others from his village and joined some three million – documented and undocumented – Asian migrant workers who live and work here in deplorable conditions.

An estimated 150,000 of these workers are Burmese migrant workers, many of them Kachins and Muslim Rohingyas from Burma’s northern Rakhine region. ‘’We Burmese migrants are sold like fish and vegetables,’’ Myint told IPS in an interview in Pudu market, a big wet market in the capital where Burmese migrant workers predominate.

Myint had been arrested, taken to the Thai border and officially ‘deported’ which actually means getting sold to human traffickers. ‘’I was robbed of all my cash by both Malaysian and Thai officials and sold to traffickers,’’ Myint told IPS.

‘’I was held in a jungle camp near the border for three weeks until my relatives bought me from the traffickers. I bribed my way back into Malaysia,’’ he said, adding that while conditions are tough in Malaysia, they are better than Burma or Thailand. ‘’There is food, work and a roof over my head.’’

Myint is one of the luckier ones to be arrested and ‘deported’ only once. He is now considered a leader in the Pudu area and much sought after by other Burmese workers for ‘assistance’ in avoiding arrest and deportation all over again.

Burmese migrant workers call the trade ‘’bwan’’ (thrown away) or one of the worst forms of human trafficking.

‘’Malaysia does not recognise key international agreements on the protection of refugees and foreign nationals. Nor does it apply to foreign migrants the same rights and legal protections given to Malaysian citizens,’’ said Irene Fernandez, executive director of Tenaganita, a rights NGO that protects migrant workers.

Human rights activists have long charged that immigration, police and other enforcement officials, including the unpopular voluntary force called RELA, have been ‘’trading’’ Burmese migrants, especially Rohingyas, to human traffickers in Thailand who then pass them on to deep sea fishing trawler operators in the South China Sea. The women are generally sold into the sex industry.

‘’They are treated as a commodity and frequently bought and sold and we have been condemning this practise for a long time,’’ Fernandez said.

‘’Our demands have always fallen on deaf ears despite the accumulating evidence of the involvement of uniformed officials in the trade,’’ Fernandez told IPS.

It has become commonplace for the authorities to use the vigilante ‘RELA’ force to periodically arrest and ‘deport’ Rohingyas, but since Burma does not recognise them as citizens, the practise is to take them to the Bukit Kayu Hitam area on the Thai-Malaysia border and force them to cross over into Thailand.

‘’They are arrested, jailed and deported, but since they are stateless they are taken to the Thai border and often sold to Thai traffickers,’’ said Fernandez. Invariably, the ‘’deported’’ Rohingyas bribe Thai and Malaysian officials and return to Malaysia.

The accusation against corrupt Malaysian officials is long standing and made frequently by refugees, human rights activists, opposition lawmakers and is even the subject of one official probe.

Malaysian television channels have also investigated and exposed the ‘sale’ of the Rohingya refugees on the Malaysia-Thai border, although they did not finger Malaysian officials for fear of reprisals.

A U.S. probe being conducted into the trafficking by the powerful Senate foreign relations committee has stimulated interest in the plight of Rohingyas when its findings are relayed to key U.S. enforcement agencies and Interpol for possible action, Senate officials have said.

‘’U.S. Senate foreign relations committee staff are reviewing reports of extortion and human trafficking from Burmese and other migrants in Malaysia, allegedly at the hands of Malaysia government officials,’’ a staff official told international news agencies in early January.

‘’The allegations include assertions that Burmese and other migrants – whether or not they have UNHCR documentation – are taken from Malaysian government detention facilities and transported to the Thailand-Malaysia border,’’ the official had said.

At the border, they alleged, ‘’money is demanded from them, or they are turned over to human traffickers in southern Thailand’’.

‘’If they pay, they return to Malaysia. If not, they are sold to traffickers,’’ the official said, adding that teams had visited Malaysia, Thailand and Burma to collect evidence on the human trade.

Some of the immigrants from Burma and other countries are refugees recognised by the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) which has an office in Kuala Lumpur.

Since 1995, about 40,000 Rohingya refugees from Burma have been settled in the U.S., most of them after passing through Malaysia, while the emigration applications of thousands more have been rejected by third countries.

“They are left stranded, unable to return to Myanmar (official name for Burma) where they face certain persecution by the military regime and rejected from immigrating to third countries,” said opposition lawmaker Charles Santiago who has raised their plight in parliament. “They need urgent help and understanding of their plight,” he told IPS, urging Malaysia to sign U.N. refugee conventions and accord refugees due recognition. “We can no longer close our eyes to their plight.” ‘’We are trapped in a foreign country without papers and without recognition,’’ said Habibur Rahman, general secretary of the Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organisation Malaysia, an organisation that speaks for stateless Rohingyas in Malaysia. ‘’We have been looking for a way to escape this dilemma but without success,’’ he told IPS.

‘’We are denied citizenship and made stateless by the Myanmar military junta and persecuted and forced to flee to neighbouring countries like Thailand, Malaysia and Bangladesh,’’ he said.

The involvement of the U.S. Senate in the issue has upset Malaysian officials who have warned the U.S. to ‘’take their hands off’’ the country, saying such action violated Malaysian sovereignty.

However, Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi has asked the U.S. to pass on information pertaining to the allegations, saying the government does not tolerate extortion from migrants by officials.

‘’The U.S. authorities have evidence we would be very thankful for, if they can pass the information to us for investigation and appropriate action,’’ he told Bernama, the official news agency, on Jan. 15.

An upset foreign minister Rais Yatim told local media on Jan. 19 that the allegations were ‘’baseless, ridiculous and farfetched’’. 

‘’We are a civilised country. We are not living in barbaric times when people are sold off at the whims and fancies of people with power. It is certainly unfair of the U.S. Senate to accuse us of doing such outrageous things,’’ Yatim said.

Source : Malaysiakini

Jan 19, 09 6:29pm

Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar today acknowledged that many Burmese nationals have entered this country via the Malaysia-Thai border but denied that there is human trafficking.

Certain quarters had alleged that human trafficking activities involving Burmese nationals were going on in this country although they could not prove that they existed, he told reporters.

kuala terengganu by election 140109 syed hamid albar“Where did these foreigners get their information? They assume that they know more than we do. 

“If there is proof, action can be taken. Don’t make wild accusations,” he was quoted as saying by Bernama.

The minister said the authorities in this country must always cooperate with their counterparts in the neighbouring country to ensure that there is no incursion by foreigners into this country while illegal immigrants should be repatriated.

“We have to see how they enter the country. If there is a jetty at Bukit Batu Puteh (in Perlis), we can solve a lot of problems. Some people smuggle in goods while some smuggle in human beings,” he said.

Syed Hamid said a jetty was needed to enable the Malaysian security forces to carry out more effective patrols in Bukit Batu Puteh, a coastal area near the border.

‘Refugees for sale’

The United States Senate is currently probing a ‘refugees for sale’ scam in which Malaysian immigration officials have been implicated.

Last week, opposition MP Charles Santiago called on the government not to brush aside this allegation.

Previously, said Santiago, the home minister had responded in ‘typical fashion’ in Parliament on the matter by announcing the formation of a special committee to investigate the claims.

As predicted, it was “found” that immigration officials were not involved in trafficking of the Burmese or other refugees.

This came despite testimonials to the contrary from numerous migrant rights’ non-governmental organisations as well as the victims themselves.

“Either Syed Hamid is naive enough to buy the story dished out by the Immigration Department, which had set-up a special team to investigate its own officers or he is desperate to ensure Malaysia does not receive bad press worldwide,” Santiago told Malaysiakini.

English version : End the ‘Refugee for Sale’ Cover-up.


日期 :2009116 


去年,我和两个人权组织,妇女力量(Tenaganita)和移民工人工作组(Migrant Working Group),已在国会提出关于移民厅官员涉嫌贩卖缅甸难民的事件,但是内政部长赛哈密却敷衍了事。