Malaysia To Abolish Mandatory Death Penalty

A file photo of the Malaysian map.

 

Malaysia’s government said Friday it has agreed to abolish the mandatory death penalty, with campaigners welcoming the move but cautioning the country had failed to deliver on previous vows to improve rights.

The death penalty remains mandatory for several offences in the Southeast Asian nation, including murder and drug trafficking, although a moratorium on executions has been in place since 2018.

That year a reformist alliance took power and announced it would abolish capital punishment entirely but the plan stalled due to opposition from political rivals and murder victims’ families.

Since then, a watered-down proposal of axing only the death penalty in cases where it is mandatory had been mooted.

Law Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said Friday the Cabinet had agreed to abolish mandatory capital punishment.

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Further study would be conducted on what sentences could be substituted for the death penalty, he said.

“The decision on this matter shows the government’s priority to ensure the rights of all parties are protected and guaranteed,” he said in a statement.

As well as offences where capital punishment is mandatory, there are several other crimes where the death penalty can be handed down at the judge’s discretion.

Legislation will need to be enacted in parliament to make the changes, and Wan Junaidi told AFP it would “take a little while”, without giving a timeframe.

The process is “not as simple as people would imagine it”, he added.

While welcoming the announcement, campaigners also expressed caution.

“Malaysia’s public pronouncement that it will do away with the mandatory death penalty is an important step forward,” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, told AFP.

“But before everyone starts cheering, we need to see Malaysia pass the actual legislative amendments to put this pledge into effect.”

He added there had been a trend of successive Malaysian governments “promising much on human rights but ultimately delivering very little”.

Amnesty International Malaysia’s executive director Katrina Jorene Maliamauv hailed the move as “a welcome step in the right direction, and we urge (the government) to go further and work towards full abolition of this cruel punishment.

“We have seen and documented time and time again how the use of mandatory sentencing has disproportionately harmed the most marginalised and disenfranchised members of society.”

Opposition lawmaker Ramkarpal Singh — whose party was in power when the government first proposed abolishing the death penalty — indicated he was supportive of the move.

“We always advocated for the abolishment of the mandatory death penalty,” he told AFP.

AFP

Malaysia Floods Displace 12,000

A man holds onto barriers as he waits to be evacuated by a rescue team in Shah Alam, Selangor on December 20, 2021, as Malaysia faces some of its worst floods for years. (Photo by Arif KARTONO / AFP)

 

The tropical Southeast Asian nation was hit by bouts of bad weather over the weekend, as continuous rain swamped towns on the peninsula’s east coast.

Malaysia often sees stormy weather at this time of year, with seasonal flooding regularly causing mass evacuations.

Official data showed 11,831 people housed in flood relief centres in the northern states of Kelantan and Terengganu as of 4.30 pm local time (GMT 0830) on Sunday.

Addressing the recent flooding, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said authorities were being mobilised to evacuate victims.

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“Many of those affected are being rescued and are taken to safer places,” he said in a Facebook post.

The Meteorological Department warned that bad weather was to continue in these states, with heavy rain also expected in much of the peninsula as well as in parts of Borneo island.

A warning was also issued for strong winds and stormy seas, particularly in the South China Sea and the northern tip of the Malacca Straits.

This recent downpour comes after heavy monsoon rains from mid-December to early January led to some of the country’s worst flooding in decades.

About 50 people were killed and 125,000 people were forced from their homes then, with authorities recording over $1.45 billion in damages.

AFP

Court Adjourns Deceased Malaysian’s Alleged €250,000,000 Fraud Trial

Tan Ah Chai Richard
Tan Ah Chai Richard

 

The €250,000,000.00 fraud trial involving a Malaysian, Tan Ah Chai Richard (now late), and his company, Coastal Asia Investments Limited, before Justice Mojisola Dada of the Special Offences Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos has been adjourned till March 4, 2022 for continuation of trial.

Richard and his company were first arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on May 22, 2019, on a five-count charge bordering on forgery, use of false document, conspiracy to forge and an attempt to obtain money by false pretence to the tune of €250,000,000.

He had pleaded “not guilty” to the charges, thereby prompting commencement of trial, which had seen the prosecution calling a witness.

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However, in the course of the trial, Richard reportedly died in prison custody, necessitating the need to amend the charges.

EFCC spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren, revealed in a statement that at today’s proceedings, January 28, 2022, the prosecuting counsel, E.S. Okongwu, informed the Court that the charges had been amended as ordered by the Court.

One of the amended charges reads: “Tan Ah Chai Richard (Deceased), Coastal Asia Investments Limited and Dr. Sawang Jana (still at large), on or about the 27th September, 2018 at Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, with intent to defraud, conspired to commit felony, to wit: forgery of Swift Telex Advice dated 27th September, 2018, indicating transfer of the sum of €250,000,000.00 (Two Hundred and Fifty Million Euros) to Coastal Asia Investments Limited account with Polaris Bank Plc (formerly Skye Bank Plc), from HSBC Bank Plc, London, United Kingdom.”

Consequently, Justice Dada adjourned till March 4, 2022 for continuation of trial, as the defendant was not represented in court.

Thousands Flee As Floods Worsen In Malaysia

A woman walks past items from her household, which were damaged during the recent floods, in Shah Alam, Selangor on December 27, 2021. Arif KARTONO / AFP

 

Thousands more people have fled swamped homes as heavy rains exacerbated flooding in seven Malaysian states, officials said Sunday, with over 125,000 people evacuated in total since mid-December. 

The National Disaster Management Agency said the weeks-long bout of bad weather was expected to carry on until Tuesday.

Dangerous water levels were detected in rivers in at least five states, a government monitoring website showed Sunday, with rising levels recorded in many other areas.

Some 50 people have been killed so far, a police Facebook post on Saturday said, with two still missing.

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The tropical Southeast Asian nation often faces stormy weather around the year’s end, with seasonal flooding regularly causing mass evacuations.

But authorities have been taken by surprise by the days of constant rain that began on December 17, causing rivers to overflow and inundating cities.

Malaysia’s richest state of Selangor — the country’s commercial hub — has been among the worst-hit.

Around 117,700 of those evacuated since mid-December have returned to their homes, though nearly 10,000 people in five states on the country’s peninsular and in Sabah state on Borneo island have sought refuge in relief centres, official data showed.

AFP

14 Dead As Floods Displace 70,000 In Malaysia


Rescue officials evacuate people in a boat in Shah Alam, Selangor on December 20, 2021, as Malaysia faces some of its worst floods for years. Arif KARTONO / AFP

 

The Malaysian military used boats Tuesday to distribute food to desperate people trapped in their homes after massive floods, as the death toll rose to 14 with over 70,000 displaced. 

Days of torrential rain triggered some of the worst flooding in years across the country at the weekend, swamping cities and villages and cutting off major roads.

Selangor — the country’s wealthiest and most densely populated state, encircling the capital Kuala Lumpur — is one of the worst-hit areas.

In the city of Shah Alam, some areas were still under water Tuesday and military personnel in boats distributed food to people stuck in their homes and government shelters.

Kartik Subramany fled his house as floodwaters rose, and took refuge in a school for 48 hours before being evacuated with his family to a shelter.

“My house is totally damaged, my two cars are wrecked,” the 29-year-old told AFP.

“These are the worst floods of my entire life. The federal government has failed the people miserably — it has failed in its primary function to protect and safeguard lives.”

He is among a growing number criticising what they say is a slow and inadequate official response.

Thousands of emergency service and military personnel have been mobilised, but critics say it is not enough and volunteers have stepped in to provide food and boats for the rescue effort.

There have also been reports of supermarkets being looted in one hard-hit Shah Alam neighbourhood.

READ ALSO: More Than 100 Dead In Philippines Typhoon, Says Officials

 ‘Hopeless’ Official Response 


Rescue officials evacuate people in a boat in Shah Alam, Selangor on December 20, 2021, as Malaysia faces some of its worst floods for years. Arif KARTONO / AFP

 

Opposition MP Fuziah Salleh described the official response as “hopeless” and “incompetent”.

“No early warning of the torrential rain was given,” she told AFP. “It is so sad lives have been lost.”

On Tuesday, the death toll from the floods rose to 14, including eight in Selangor and six in the eastern state of Pahang, official news agency Bernama reported.

But with reports of people still missing, it is expected to increase.

More than 71,000 people have been forced from their homes due to the floods, including 41,000 in Pahang and 26,000 in Selangor, according to official data.

Evacuees are being housed in government relief centres but officials have warned to expect a rise in coronavirus cases linked to the crowded shelters.

The rain has stopped and in many areas floodwaters have receded, leaving residents to count the cost.

“I’ve been doing business for more than 24 years… this has never happened before,” said Mohammad Awal, whose cosmetic shop outside Kuala Lumpur was flooded.

The Southeast Asian nation is hit by floods annually during the monsoon season, but those at the weekend were the worst since 2014 when over 100,000 people were forced from their homes.

Global warming has been linked to worsening floods. Because a warmer atmosphere holds more water, climate change increases the risk and intensity of flooding from extreme rainfall.

AFP

Floods In Malaysia Displace Over 29,000 People

People clean up theier house after it was hit by flood in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia on December 19, 2021. (Photo by Arif Kartono / AFP)

 

Over 29,000 people were evacuated throughout Malaysia Sunday as the country faces some of its worst flooding in years.

The tropical Southeast Asian nation often sees stormy monsoon seasons at the end of the year, with seasonal flooding regularly causing mass evacuations.

Heavy downpours since Friday have caused rivers to overflow, submerging many urban areas and cutting off major roads, stranding thousands of motorists.

More than 29,000 flood victims in eight states and territories were recorded on an official government website, with over 13,000 of them in the central state of Pahang.

Nearly 10,000 people fled their homes in the country’s richest state of Selangor — which surrounds the capital Kuala Lumpur — with Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob expressing surprise at the strong flooding there.

“The amount of rain that fell in Selangor yesterday, what fell in one day would usually fall in one month,” he told a Sunday press conference.

The premier also promised swift aid to flood victims as well as an initial allocation of 100 million ringgit ($23.7million) to repair damaged houses and infrastructure.

While rainy weather has slowed nationwide, a government website showed water exceeding dangerous levels in six central and northeastern states Sunday afternoon.

Dozens of bus routes in and around the Malaysian capital have been cancelled and train services leading to the port city of Klang were suspended.

Operations at three water treatment plants in Selangor were also disrupted by the floods, with taps expected to run dry for tens of thousands in parts of the state and the capital.

Malaysia’s worst flooding in decades took place in 2014, forcing some 118,000 people to flee.

Malaysian PM Resigns After Turbulent 17 Months In Office

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin waves as he arives at the National Palace in Kuala Lumpur on August 16, 2021, as he was expected to quit after just 17 months in office.
Arif KARTONO / AFP

 

Malaysia’s prime minister resigned and his government collapsed Monday after just 17 months in office, throwing the country into fresh political turmoil as it battles a serious coronavirus outbreak.

Muhyiddin Yassin’s tumultuous period in office came to an end after allies withdrew support, and he becomes the shortest-serving premier in Malaysian history.

With an election unlikely and no obvious successor on the horizon, Malaysia is set for a period of intense political horse-trading before a workable coalition takes shape.

After submitting his resignation to the king, the 74-year-old took a parting shot at enemies within his coalition.

“I could have taken the easy way out by casting aside my principles to remain as prime minister — but that is not my choice,” he said in a televised address.

“I will never work with kleptocrats.”

He has claimed that several MPs who pulled support from his coalition — including scandal-plagued ex-leader Najib Razak — had been angered that he refused to get corruption cases against them dropped.

The national palace confirmed the monarch, Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah — who formally appoints the premier — had accepted Muhyiddin’s resignation.

It said in a statement Muhyiddin would serve as a caretaker prime minister until a replacement is found but the monarch was not in favour of polls now due to the outbreak.

Muhyiddin came to power in March last year without an election at the head of a scandal-plagued coalition following the collapse of a two-year-old, reformist government led by Mahathir Mohamad, a political heavyweight in his nineties.

But his government faced turmoil from day one — his majority in parliament was in doubt, its legitimacy was constantly questioned, and he faced a constant challenge from opposition chief Anwar Ibrahim.

Criticism over virus response

 

Members of the media stand outside the National Palace in Kuala Lumpur on August 16, 2021, as Malaysia’s embattled Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin was expected to quit after just 17 months in office.
Arif KARTONO / AFP

 

The demise of his government extends a period of political drama for the multi-ethnic nation of 32 million.

After independence from Britain in 1957, Malaysia was ruled for over six decades by a coalition dominated by the country’s ethnic Malay Muslim majority.

But corruption scandals, unpopular race-based policies and increasingly authoritarian rule prompted weary voters to boot the coalition and its leader Najib out of power at 2018 polls.

The victory of Mahathir’s opposition alliance fuelled hopes for a new era, but it collapsed amid bitter infighting.

As well as questions over its legitimacy, Muhyiddin’s government faced mounting criticism over its failure to keep the virus under control — officials have now reported over 1.1 million cases and 12,000 deaths.

In January, he persuaded the king to declare Malaysia’s first nationwide state of emergency for over half a century, ostensibly to fight the pandemic.

But parliament was also suspended for months, leading to criticism that Muhyiddin was using the crisis to avoid a no-confidence vote.

Muhyiddin’s position finally became untenable after a group of once allied MPs withdrew support, depriving him of a parliamentary majority turned against him.

He made his last bid to stay in power on Friday, appealing to opposition MPs to back him in a no-confidence vote — but his offer was rejected.

There are a number of possibilities for the next government — the remnants of Muhyiddin’s government could try to form a coalition, while the opposition will also take a run at power — but it is wide open.

“His replacement is anybody’s guess,” said Oh Ei Sun, an analyst at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs.

-AFP

Malaysians Stage Anti-Govt Protest Despite COVID-19 Curbs

Malaysians gesture as they take part in a rare anti-government rally in Kuala Lumpur on July 31, 2021, despite a tough Covid-19 coronavirus lockdown in place restricting gatherings and public assemblies. (Photo by Arif KARTONO / AFP)

 

 

Hundreds of black-clad Malaysians staged an anti-government protest Saturday in defiance of a ban on public gatherings under coronavirus curbs, piling pressure on the embattled prime minister to resign. 

The protesters, wearing masks and keeping a distance from one another, waved banners reading “failed government” as well as black flags.

It was the first sizeable demonstration in Malaysia for some time, as many had been reluctant to take to the streets due to virus curbs and for fear of getting infected.

But anger is growing at the government’s handling of the virus outbreak — which is escalating despite a lockdown — and Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s attempts to keep his crisis-riven administration in power.

“We fight because while the people are suffering, this government is busy playing politics,” Karmun Loh, taking part in the protest in downtown Kuala Lumpur, told AFP.

“This government is… crippling the economy and also destroying our country’s democracy.”

Muhyiddin “is a terrible prime minister”, added demonstrator Shaq Koyok.

“He needs to step down.”

There was a heavy police presence and officers blocked attempts by protesters to enter a central square before the rally peacefully dispersed.

Organisers said about 1,000 demonstrators took part but police put the number at around 400.

 

Malaysians take part in a rare anti-government rally in Kuala Lumpur on July 31, 2021, despite a tough Covid-19 coronavirus lockdown in place restricting gatherings and public assemblies. (Photo by Arif KARTONO / AFP)

 

Police told local media that the protesters will be called in for questioning as they had violated the ban on gatherings.

Muhyiddin took power at the head of a scandal-plagued coalition last year without an election following the demise of a reformist administration.

But his government is on the verge of collapse after allies withdrew support.

He came under renewed pressure to step down this week after parliament convened following a months-long suspension as part of a virus state of emergency.

His government was accused of dodging a vote that would have tested its shaky majority — drawing a rare rebuke from the country’s revered king.

Sunday is the final day of the six-month state of emergency but the nationwide lockdown will remain in place. Malaysia has reported almost 1.1 million virus cases and more than 8,800 deaths.

Singapore Blogger Ordered To Pay $100,000 For Defaming PM

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong waves as he arrives in a car at the High Court in Singapore on October 6, 2020. (Photo by ROSLAN RAHMAN / AFP)

 

A Singaporean blogger was ordered Wednesday to pay almost $100,000 in damages for defaming the prime minister by sharing an article on Facebook linking the leader to a corruption scandal.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had accused Leong Sze Hian of spreading false claims about him over the article related to the money-laundering scandal at state fund 1MDB in Malaysia.

Critics say the case is the latest example of the tightly-regulated city-state’s government being heavy-handed and seeking to silence dissent online.

Singapore’s leaders have frequently turned to the courts to take on critics, ranging from political opponents to foreign media outlets, and insist such action is necessary to protect their reputations.

High Court Judge Aedit Abdullah found in Lee’s favour, and ordered Leong to pay him Sg$133,000 (US$99,000). Lee had sought Sg$150,000.

Leong’s lawyer Lim Tean described the verdict as a “wrong and deeply flawed decision”.

The premier took the stand at the start of the trial in October and accused Leong of making “malicious and baseless” allegations, which had undermined the government’s “integrity and honesty”.

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The article that Leong shared, originally published in a Malaysian news portal, alleged that Lee was the target of an investigation in neighbouring Malaysia over the 1MDB state fund.

Billions of dollars were looted from the investment vehicle in a scandal that involved Malaysia’s former leader Najib Razak and his inner circle.

Leong’s lawyer Lim had argued the libel suit was unnecessary as authorities had already denied the allegations, adding the prime minister had “picked on the defendant when there are many others” who had shared the defamatory article.

Rights groups frequently accuse Singapore authorities of resorting to tough laws to silence criticism.

In 2019, authorities introduced a law against online misinformation, which empowers ministers to order the blocking of social media posts they deem false, sparking criticism that it would chill free speech.

AFP

North Koreans Leave Malaysia After Ties Cut Over US Extradition Row

A bus carrying diplomats and staff members leaves the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur on March 21, 2021, after the country severed diplomatic ties with Malaysia in response to the extradition of a North Korean citizen to the US earlier this month. Aliff NOR / AFP

 

North Korea’s diplomats in Malaysia shuttered their embassy and flew out of the country Sunday, after Pyongyang severed diplomatic ties over the extradition of a citizen to the United States.

Pyongyang announced the shock move Friday, labelling Malaysia’s extradition of a North Korean man an “unpardonable crime” carried out under “blind obedience” to American pressure.

The Southeast Asian country had been one of Pyongyang’s few allies but ties were already strained following the 2017 assassination of leader Kim Jong Un’s half-brother at Kuala Lumpur airport.

READ ALSOAnti-Coup Protesters Defy Myanmar Junta’s Campaign Of Fear

A court ruling this month that Mun Chol Myong could be extradited to the United States to face trial for allegedly exporting prohibited items to North Korea in violation of sanctions proved the final blow.

After Pyongyang cut ties, Malaysia gave North Korean diplomats 48 hours to leave the country.

On Sunday, the North Korean flag and a plaque were taken down from the country’s embassy — a large house in an upmarket area of Kuala Lumpur — and the gates were chained up.

North Korean embassy counsellor Kim Yu Song reads a statement outside the compounds of the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur on March 21, 2021, after the country severed diplomatic ties with Malaysia in response to the extradition of a North Korean citizen to the US earlier this month. Aliff NOR / AFP

 

Before departing, North Korean charge d’affaires, Kim Yu Song, accused Malaysia of siding with Washington in a “conspiracy” against Pyongyang, and committing a “large hostile act”.

Malaysia had aligned its policies with those of the United States, “which seeks to deprive our state of its sovereignty, peaceful existence and development,” Kim, North Korea’s most senior diplomat in Malaysia, told a large media pack.

– Illicit activities –
A group of North Koreans and their family members then departed on a bus.

They arrived later at Kuala Lumpur airport, loaded stacks of luggage onto trolleys and went to check in at the counters used by regular passengers.

North Korean embassy counsellor Kim Yu Song (L) is seen walking inside the compounds of the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur on March 20, 2021, after the country severed diplomatic ties with Malaysia in response to the extradition of a North Korean citizen to the US earlier this month. Aliff NOR / AFP

 

Kim confirmed to AFP the group, around 30-strong, was heading first to Shanghai.

Their flight for the city departed in the afternoon, although it was not clear how or when they would travel on to North Korea.

Malaysia had expelled the diplomats “in response to the DPRK’s unilateral and utterly irresponsible decision to sever diplomatic ties,” Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein tweeted, using the official name of North Korea.

“This action is a reminder that Malaysia shall never tolerate any attempt to meddle in our internal affairs and judiciary, disrespect our governance system, and constantly create unnecessary tensions in defiance of the rules-based international order.”

Pyongyang’s decision to cut ties came after a visit last week by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin to South Korea, part of an Asian tour to rally support against North Korea and China.

Malaysia denounced Pyongyang’s move, and announced it would close its mission in North Korea, whose operations had already been suspended since the murder of Kim Jong Un’s half-brother.

North Korean embassy counsellor Kim Yu Song carries a box inside the compounds of the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur on March 21, 2021, after the country severed diplomatic ties with Malaysia in response to the extradition of a North Korean citizen to the US earlier this month.
Aliff NOR / AFP

 

North Korea operated embassies in about 25 countries as of December last year, according to Seoul.

Illicit activities are known to be rampant in these foreign missions, and Pyongyang has long been accused of using them for intelligence gathering, sanctions-busting and money laundering.

AFP

Malaysia Deports Over 1,000 Myanmar Nationals, Defying Court Order

An immigration truck carrying believed to be Myanmar migrants from Malaysia back to their homeland, is seen heading towards the Naval base in Lumut, outside Kuala Lumpur on February 23, 2021. (Photo by Mohd RASFAN / AFP)

 

Malaysia on Tuesday deported more than 1,000 Myanmar detainees back to their strife-torn homeland just weeks after a coup, despite a court order halting the repatriation and a storm of criticism.

The migrants, whom activists say include vulnerable asylum seekers, departed on three Myanmar navy ships from a Malaysian military base after arriving on packed trucks and buses under police escort.

The United States, the United Nations and rights groups had criticised the plan, while hours before the deportation a Kuala Lumpur court ordered it be temporarily halted to allow a legal challenge.

Activists were set to argue it should not go ahead as Malaysia would breach its international duties by deporting vulnerable people, and the Myanmar military’s seizure of power put them at even greater risk.

But the vessels later set sail carrying 1,086 detainees, with authorities giving no explanation as to why the court order had been ignored.

Amnesty International, one of the groups that had brought the legal challenge, said pushing ahead with the repatriation in defiance of the ruling was “inhumane and devastating”.

“This life-threatening decision has affected the lives of more than 1,000 people and their families, and leaves an indelible stain on Malaysia’s human rights record,” said Katrina Jorene Maliamauv, executive director of the group’s Malaysian office.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said Malaysia had “sent them back into the hands of a military junta known for persecuting those who flee the country for political reasons”.

Malaysian immigration chief Khairul Dzaimee Daud had offered assurances no members of the persecuted Rohingya minority — not recognised as citizens in Myanmar — or asylum seekers had been repatriated.

“All of those who have been deported agreed to return of their own free will, without being forced,” he said.

Rights groups have however raised doubts over authorities’ claims no asylum seekers were among those sent back, as the UN has not been able to do a proper assessment.

Authorities earlier said 1,200 detainees were to be deported, and it was not clear why the final number was lower.

– Refugees from conflict areas –

Officials insist those sent back had committed offences such as overstaying their visas, and the deportation was part of their regular programme of repatriating migrants from poorer parts of Asia.

About 37,000 foreigners were repatriated last year. Malaysia is home to millions of migrants who work in low-paying jobs such as construction.

It is rare for rights groups to launch legal challenges against deportations.

But they were prompted to do so by concerns about the worsening human rights situation in Myanmar since the coup, and that some of the migrants were vulnerable.

Activists have been growing increasingly alarmed since authorities blocked the UN refugee agency from accessing immigration detention centres in Malaysia in 2019.

This means the UN cannot assess whether foreigners are economic migrants looking for work or asylum seekers fleeing persecution and conflict, who would usually be granted refugee status and the right to remain in Malaysia.

In the latest case, the detainees were believed to include members of the Christian Chin minority and people from conflict-riven Kachin and Shan states, according to Lilianne Fan, international director of the Geutanyoe Foundation, which works with refugees.

Since seizing power at the start of February, authorities in mostly Buddhist Myanmar have gradually ratcheted up their use of force, with three anti-coup protesters killed in demonstrations so far.

Malaysia initially expressed “serious concern” at the coup, but just days later news emerged it had accepted an offer from the Myanmar junta to send warships to repatriate the detainees.

Six Dead, Nearly 50,000 Evacuated In Malaysia Floods

Residents walk along a road submerged by floodwaters in Mentakab in Malaysia's Pahang state on January 8, 2021, following heavy monsoon rains. Mohd RASFAN / AFP
Residents walk along a road submerged by floodwaters in Mentakab in Malaysia’s Pahang state on January 8, 2021, following heavy monsoon rains. Mohd RASFAN / AFP

 

At least six people have died and nearly 50,000 evacuated in Malaysia after monsoon rains pounded the country’s east coast, authorities said Friday, causing what residents described as the worst flooding in half a century.

Authorities have stepped up rescue operations after locals complained they had to fend for themselves earlier this week.

Heavy rains continued to batter the region on Friday, swelling the number of people abandoning their homes to more than 47,000, officials said.

“I have lost everything. The water has covered my roof,” 59-year-old factory worker Tan Kong Leng told AFP, tears filling his eyes.

Floods hit the region during the rainy season every year and regularly result in mass evacuations; but those in the affected areas say this year’s are the worst in decades.

Many roads, including the main expressway that links the east coast states, have been closed.

The worst-hit state is Pahang, where around 27,000 people have been evacuated in recent days, according to the social welfare department.

In one village in the state cut off by floods, residents were evacuated in an excavator on Wednesday, while others were forced to swim through deep waters.

Tan, the factory worker, and his wife took shelter at his plywood factory. They had just minutes to put their clothes in their car and flee to higher ground before the fast-rising waters engulfed their home.

“I am sad. All my fittings and fixtures are destroyed. My biggest fear is that more rain will pour in the coming days. Look! There are dark clouds moving in fast,” he said.

In one of the worst-hit districts in Pahang, residents complained that narrow and rubbish-filled drains contributed to the deluge.

Mentakab resident Muhammad Fadzil Wahab said he and other locals have formed their own patrol units to prevent house break-ins.

“We scout the entire flooded village at night with our small boats and torch lights,” he told AFP.

“My family members are safe at the evacuation centres.”

Adding to the complexity of rescue efforts, Malaysia is seeing a surge in coronavirus cases, reporting its biggest daily rise on Thursday.

But Fadzil said government help has started to intensify, including boats and military trucks.

“Thank Allah food, boats and medical assistance is now available,” he said.

 

AFP