From Andika Wahab, via e-mail
We are writing to you to express our concern over the arrest of the 97 Burmese refugees in Penang, and urge the government to not forcibly deport them to any country where their life may be in danger.
We remind the Malaysian government of its obligation to uphold the international customary law of non-refoulement, which prohibits the return of people to places where they may face persecution or threats to their life or freedoms.
Suaram also urges the government to provide free access to the arrested 97 Burmese refugees to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for their asylum claims to be processed.
Upon verification of their asylum claims, the arrested refugees must be released into the official care of the UNHCR. We also remind the government that every person has the right to seek asylum in other country as stated in the Article 14 under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948).
For record, the 97 Burmese refugees were arrested on Oct 6, 2011 by the Royal Malaysian Police (RMP) and Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (APMM) in their joint operation near to Pulau Bedong.
The said Burmese refugees fled refugee camps in Bangladesh and in their five-day journey to reach Penang. Unfortunately, they were arrested by the local enforcement agencies before they reached the land in Pulau Betong.
They are currently detained (for further investigation) at Ibu Pejabat Polis, Daerah Barat Daya, Penang.
We strongly urge the government to ratify 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol. The Malaysian government as a member of the UN Human Rights Council must take serious measures in promoting and protecting human rights, including those of refugees and asylum seekers.
The writer is Refugee Coordinator, Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram)