KUALA LUMPUR, June 5 ― Deadly clashes between Muslims and Buddhists in Myanmar have spread to Malaysia, which both employs a large Burmese workforce and is home to one of the biggest Rohingya Muslim populations outside of the country.
According to media reports, four Myanmar nationals have already died while another eight were injured following reprisal attacks believed to be linked to the religious riots in the country.
“The religious sentiments (back home) have caught up with Myanmar workers here, leading to both Muslim and Buddhist groups launching heinous attacks on each other in areas with a large number of Myanmar nationals,” Kuala Lumpur deputy police chief Amar Singh Ishar Singh was quoted as saying by the Sun daily.
Buddhist mobs in Myanmar have targeted the country’s Muslim minority for violence in recent months, with the latest hotspot being northern city of Lashio, near the border with China.
Malaysia has an estimated 400,000 Myanmar workers, many of whom are restaurant and construction workers. It also houses around 23,000 Rohingyas, according to a UNHCR registry, but the number is believed to be closer to 50,000.
According to Amar, the police have formed a task force to deal with the issue and have so far arrested about 60 Myanmar workers, primarily in Sentul and Brickfields here, as a precaution.
“We have called up the leaders from both factions and had a meeting with them today and urged them to advise their people to end the violent clashes,” Amar said yesterday.
The four reported deaths were the result of four separate attacks in various parts of Kuala Lumpur, with the latest being the case of a Myanmar car wash employee who was set upon at his workplace by a group armed with parangs.
According to a report by Malay language daily Utusan Malaysia, police are probing the existence of an alleged radical Buddhist movement known as “969” that was purportedly formed to annihilate Rohingya Muslims here.
Some Rohingyas have reported receiving VCDs with scenes of murders perpetrated by the so-called “969” group, while Myanmar workers have also been spotted wearing T-shirts bearing the numbers in parts of the city.