Re­turned work­ers tell of ‘hellish’ de­ten­tion

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - NYAN LYNN AUNG nyan­lin­aung@mm­times.com ZAW ZAW HTWE za­wza­whtwe@mm­times.com

Nearly 70 Myan­mar cit­i­zens were repa­tri­ated from im­mi­gra­tion cen­tres in Malaysia yes­ter­day, and de­scribed be­ing de­prived of food and med­i­cal treat­ment while de­tained.

NEARLY 70 Myan­mar work­ers who had lan­guished in im­mi­gra­tion de­ten­tion cen­tres in Malaysia were wel­comed home yes­ter­day, the third group to be repa­tri­ated in hon­our of the state coun­sel­lor’s 71st birth­day.

So far, 214 Myan­mar cit­i­zens from camps around Malaysia have re­ceived paid trips home, ac­cord­ing to U San Win, chair of the Ke­pong Free Fu­neral Ser­vices, in­clud­ing 62 in the first group, 84 in the sec­ond and 68 in the third. A fur­ther 120 paid for their own air­fare.

The repa­tri­a­tions be­gan on July 13, and U San Win added that the re­turns will con­tinue so long as do­na­tions are main­tained.

“Now, we have fund­ing for over 250 peo­ple to re­turn. We al­ready handed over the funds to the em­bassy so of­fi­cials could ar­range the trip,” said U San Win. He added that the em­bassy had de­ter­mined which of the de­tained cit­i­zens to repa­tri­ate.

In a state­ment yes­ter­day, the Myan­mar em­bassy in Kuala Lumpur pledged to con­tinue as­sist­ing with the repa­tri­a­tions, pri­ori­tis­ing those who had spent a lengthy pe­riod in the de­ten­tion cen­tres.

By the em­bassy’s es­ti­mate, al­most 2000 Myan­mar mi­grant work­ers are de­tained in Malaysia, with over 300 hav­ing al­ready served their sen­tences but un­able to re­turn home be­cause they have no money.

While the em­bassy had pledged to con­sider re­turn­ing women, chil­dren and el­derly cit­i­zens first, only two chil­dren and 36 women have so far been in­cluded in the repa­tri­a­tions.

“The em­bassy has been giv­ing CI [cer­tifi­cates of iden­tity] to de­tained Myan­mar work­ers as quickly as pos­si­ble and try­ing its best to send them back home,” the em­bassy’s state­ment said.

As they made their way through the Yangon air­port yes­ter­day, some re­unit­ing with wait­ing rel­a­tives, many of the repa­tri­ated work­ers told The Myan­mar Times they were un­well, deal­ing with swelling pains and is­sues as­so­ci­ated with mal­nu­tri­tion due to a lack of food pro­vided in de­ten­tion.

Ko Saw Thinn, 32, spent over a year at the Bukit Jalil Im­mi­gra­tion De­pot. He said he has had leg pain for seven months, but never had a chance to see a doc­tor, de­spite re­quest­ing treat­ment.

“Many are suf­fer­ing from sim­i­lar con­di­tions at the de­ten­tion fa­cil­ity where I was held,” he said. “Dur­ing the time I was there, I saw more than 10 de­tained Myan­mar work­ers die.”

U Than Tun, 42, was held for five months at the Be­lan­tik im­mi­gra­tion de­ten­tion cen­tre in Kedah. He was among the first group to be repa­tri­ated on July 13. “The cen­tre is like hell,” he said. “I saw a few peo­ple go crazy be­cause they could not en­dure the cen­tre’s con­di­tions,” he said.

For the third round of re­turns, the Myan­mar em­bassy in Malaysia ap­proved doc­u­ments for 63 work­ers at the Bukit Jalil De­pot, 26 from the Sem­rnyih De­ten­tion Cen­tre and 30 from Lenggeng cen­tre, 68 of whom were given fund­ing for their re­turn.

Photo: Nyan Zay Htet

Ko Saw Thinn (bot­tom, cen­tre) said he was de­nied med­i­cal treat­ment while de­tained in Malaysia.

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