PETALING JAYA: Rights group Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) wants the authorities to act on the personal attacks and threats made against human rights activist Heidy Quah following her posts on social media on refugees and migrants.
FMT today published a story in which Quah, the founder of the Refuge for the Refugees, an NGO, said she had received a torrent of threats and hateful comments on social media after shedding light on the plight of refugees and migrants.
Suaram executive director Sevan Doraisamy said such threats cannot be tolerated and he called upon the authorities to take swift action against hate speech and violence in society.
“Failure to act will have dire consequences on the physical wellbeing and safety of those affected.
“The police and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) have consistently shown that they are able to track down individuals posting ‘offensive’ materials against politicians.
“It is time the authorities use these same investigative tools available to them to tackle an actual crime where a person is subjected to criminal intimidation and threat of violence,” he added in a statement.
Sevan said the “vicious campaign” against refugees and migrant workers in Malaysia is not a natural occurrence but a driven hate campaign aimed at diverting the country’s attention from the current political instability and the economic fallout from Covid-19.
He said this was clear from the false and misleading narratives consistently put forth by bots and fake accounts prevalent on social media, noting that the proliferation of disinformation is no longer adequate for the perpetrators as these have now escalated to personal attacks and issuance of threats against personal safety.
In her initial Facebook post, Quah had described her experience working with a woman who had been detained at an immigration detention depot right after giving birth to a child.
Quah wrote about the poor conditions and amenities at the centre, stating that the women there lacked sanitary pads and food.
While the posting received support, there were some who condemned Quah, with one user telling her to hang herself and another telling her to kill herself.
Speaking to FMT, Quah said she was perplexed by the hatred some Malaysians held for refugees and migrants, noting that the level of hate comments had spiked during the movement control order period.
“I’ve been working in this field for nearly 10 years. I’ve received some criticisms but nothing as extreme as this.
“People have been filling up my inbox, sending all sorts of hate comments, and not just insulting my thoughts and opinions,” she told FMT.
“It’s okay if you want to disengage, but don’t come to a point of threatening my safety. Don’t come to the point of attacking my family and race,” said Quah, who was also called names such as “pendatang” (immigrant) and “pengkhianat negara” (traitor).
“I’m trying to understand why some people feel that it is such a threat when I speak up about what’s happening at these centres,” she added.
Noting that others in the field were also receiving similar hateful comments, Quah said she planned to lodge a report with the police and MCMC.
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