As a Burmese delegation arrived in Malaysia this week to inquire into the recent spate of violence targeting Burmese nationals, families with relatives in Kuala Lumpur continue to worry while rumours spread online about ongoing violence in the country.
In Burma, media outlets have reported that between four and six Burmese migrants were killed and 10 injured in the suburbs of Kuala Lumpur during a series of violent assaults that began in late May; however, Malaysian officials said only two people had died.
In the aftermath of the violence, police in Kuala Lumpur rounded up more than 1,000 Burmese nationals as word spread that the assaults were tied to recent sectarian clashes between Buddhists and Muslims in Burma.
According to one Burmese migrant living in Kuala Lumpur, the instances of violence have been blown out of proportion.
“It is true an incident took place at the Selayang Market the other day, but it’s over. It’s only people stirring things up for no reason, crying murder everywhere,” said Peter, a Burmese migrant in Kuala Lumpur.
“But nothing is really happening. Families back home are worried after hearing the [rumours] but those are not true. We are just minding our own business.”
On Tuesday night, a high-level government delegation, led by Burma’s deputy Foreign Affairs minister, left for Malaysia to meet with the country’s officials to discuss the recent attacks targeting Burmese nationals.
“As for the Labour Ministry, we will try to provide as much assistance as we can to the migrants in detention as well as to those killed,” said Phyo Thu, a Labour Ministry director who was travelling with the delegation.
Back in Burma prominent cronies have pledged to fly migrants back home and help find them work, as airlines have offered tickets at reduced rates for those wishing to return.
According to a report in the English edition of the state mouthpiece The New Light of Myanmar on Wednesday, Myanmar Airway International is offering a 50 percent discount for Burmese migrants flying for Kuala Lumpur to Rangoon from 12 June to 12 July.
On Facebook, several Burmese at home and abroad blacked out their avatar photos in a sign of solidarity with victims of the violence in Malaysia.
Balagyi, a resident in Rangoon, said he would try to convince his younger sister working in Malaysia to return to Burma.
“I still can’t get in touch with her but when I do, I am going to ask if she rather die back home or die abroad,” said Balagyi.
“I will tell her to come back – she can earn about the same here anyway. I will get her back.”
Another Rangoon resident Nwe Nwe Htun said she is worried for her younger brother who is living in Kuala Lumpur.
“I am worried for him. I chatted to him online and he said he’s staying indoors,” said Nwe Nwe Htun.
“Apparently there are plenty of police stations around his place, but I am still very worried and our mother is, too. We heard some Karen and Arakanese migrants were killed. He told us not to worry and that he won’t go outside,” said Nwe Nwe Htun.
There are more than 300,000 Burmese nationals living in Malaysia including a large number of Muslim Rohingya who arrived in the country by boat after fleeing religious persecution in Burma.
-Shwe Aung provided additional reporting.