Burma said on Monday it had sent out safety instructions to its migrant workers in Malaysia after attackers hacked five of them to death with swords, weeks after it barred workers from going there, partly because of security fears.
Tension between the Southeast Asian neighbours has risen in recent months over the fate of Burma’s stateless Rohingya Muslim minority, with Malaysia accusing Burma of genocide over its treatment of them.
Burma rejects reports of abuses by its security forces against the Rohingya in the course of a crackdown launched after attackers killed nine Burmese policemen in border posts near the Bangladesh border on 9 October.
On Thursday, four masked men wielding swords attacked Burmese workers after they had left a factory in the Serdang district on the outskirts of the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur. Five were killed and two wounded.
Malaysian police said seven Burmese men had been detained shortly after the attack and they did not see any “religious motivations” behind it. They gave no more details.
Mostly Buddhist Burma stopped its workers going to Malaysia in December, after Najib Razak, prime minister of the predominantly Muslim country, described Burma’s treatment of the Rohingya as “genocide” and called for foreign intervention.
Labour-short Malaysia hosts about 147,000 Burmese workers, according to Burma data.
The spokesman for Burma’s President’s Office, Zaw Htay, said safety instructions had been issued to Burmese workers in Malaysia and illegal Burmese workers there were urged to contact the embassy, state media quoted him as saying.
Burma was working with Malaysian authorities to investigate the attack and the ban on workers going to Malaysia would remain in force, he said.
Nyunt Win, deputy director general at Burma’s Labour, Immigration and Population Ministry, said security worries had been one reason for the ban on workers going to Malaysia.
“There are several reasons for the ban on Myanmar migrant workers going to Malaysia, including security concerns and the fact that they are trying to stir up political troubles against Myanmar,” Nyunt Win said. He did not elaborate.
Last week, Malaysia’s top counter-terrorism official told Reuters in an interview that Burma faced a growing danger of attacks by foreign supporters of the Islamic State recruited from Southeast Asian networks in support of the Rohingya.
Malaysian authorities detained a suspected IS follower planning to go to Burma to carry out attacks, the head of the Malaysian police counter-terrorism division, Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, said, adding that Burmese targets outside of Burma were also at risk.