Ninety-seven Burmese workers are hiding in a warehouse at the Shin Yang Shipyard in the port town on Miri in Malaysian Borneo, fearing for their safety after a personal fight between two Burmese and some Indonesian co-workers almost turned into a mass brawl.
According to Burmese at the shipyard in Miri, the fracas began on 23 December when two Burmese migrant laborers brawled with fellow workers from Indonesia. After the fight, hundreds of Indonesian workers allegedly gathered and burnt down the dormitory where the Burmese migrants stayed.
Speaking to DVB from inside the warehouse on Thursday, migrant worker Tin Oo said that factory officials and security guards had come to coax the Burmese out of the godown.
“The shipyard foremen and security guards threatened us but we defied them and will stay here in the meantime,” said Tin Oo, noting that the facility had sparse rations of food and that the 97 had to sleep on newspapers.
Soe Win, the labor attaché at the Burmese Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, said his office had called the agency that had sent the workers to Sabah-Sarawak and was planning to call for riot police to intervene.
“We are in contact with authorities from Malaysia including those on Sabah- Sarawak,” he said.
Some 300, 000 Burmese are officially working in Malaysia at the present time, with another 40,000 thought to be living and working there illegally.