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Riot at Malaysian immigration detention centre

Apr 30, 3008 (DVB)−An argument over the beating of five Burmese refugees at an immigration detention centre in Malaysia culminated in rioting and a fire started by an inmate, according to an eyewitness.

Ko Sarmi, a Burmese migrant being held at the detention centre, said the problems began earlier this month after security guards made false accusations against some of the inmates.

"The incident took place on the evening of 13 April after Malaysian voluntary fire brigade officials who were in charge of security at the detention centre started beating up five ethnic Chin refugees from Burma, accusing them of smoking in the camp," he said.

"The people were non-smokers, but the camp officials took them into a room and started beating them up."

The incident sparked an argument with the camp officials early the next morning.

"We were called in to have our regular meal at breakfast time by the camp officials, and when we saw them we demanded an explanation of why they beat up the five refugees the night before," Ko Sarmi said.

"They refused to explain and instead told us to stand in a line. The argument escalated when other detainees joined in. Then people started ransacking the camp."

Ko Sarmi said one of the inmates then set fire to the camp.

"The fire was started by an Indonesian detainee. He wrapped his shirt around a stick, soaked it in gasoline and set fire to the room underneath the cell where he was detained."

Following the riot, the inmates were sent to another detention centre where Ko Sarmi said some were sold on to people smugglers.

"A few days after arriving at the new camp, the camp authorities sold about 100 of us including me to Thai human smugglers for 500 ringgit each," he said.

"We were asked to pay the Thai smugglers 2100 ringgit each in order to get back to Kuala Lumpur, and 1900 ringgit to the border."

Malaysian authorities have recently stepped up action against Burmese and other migrants.

Many have been arrested, while others have been forced to go into hiding in the jungle areas.

Reporting by Naw Say Phaw

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