Human Rights Watch says the arrest of PSM activists are absurd and calls for their immediate release.
The group was accused of “waging war against the king” by attempting to resutrect the long vanquished Communist Party of Malaysia (CPM) and have been remanded for seven days.
“Charging the political opposition with restarting a movement that died with the Cold War 20 years ago is more than a little absurd,” said HRW’s deputy Asia director, Phil Robertson in a statement today.
“These arrests show the government’s fundamental disregard for the democratic process and its willingness to go to great lengths to frighten Malaysians with political bogeymen from the distant past.”
HRW noted that while the general elections are not slated for Malaysia until 2013, the government has tightened repression on all election-related activity. The heaviest clampdown has been on the Bersih rally on July 9 which has seen the arrests of 81 activists since June 22.
“The Malaysian government’s actions to deny the rights to freedom of association, expression, and peaceful assembly run counter to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” Robertson stated.
“It also contradicts the government’s commitments to respect international human rights standards as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council.”
Malaysia was elected to the council last May amid widespread criticism from international human rights bodies that claimed the country fell short of UN standards.
HRW also pressed the government to heed the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam’s) call to allow the Bersih rally and the possible counter-marches planned by Umno Youth and Perkasa to proceed.
“Rather than trying to silence peaceful critics, the Malaysian government should be working to ensure that election processes are fair and that they fully protect the civil and political rights of all Malaysians,” Robertson said.
“Arresting people for wearing t-shirts and distributing leaflets simply shows the depths of the government’s intolerance of opposing viewpoints.”