Malyasian Government Uses Cane to Whip Illegal Migrants
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Malyasian Government Uses Cane to Whip Illegal Migrants

By Violet Cho/Kuala Lampur Friday, August 3, 2007


The Malaysian government is using the cane to whip undocumented illegal immigrants, including people with valid UNHCR refugee cards.

“I lost consciousness for an hour after I was whipped,” said a Burmese Rohingya man who has a UN refugee card and was sentenced to six months in a detention camp, including a court ordered stroke of the cane as punishment for living illegally in Malaysia.

Hlaing Myint, a 24-year-old Karen migrant worker who was also sentenced to o­ne cane stroke, said, “I can not work as long as before, because since being caned I still feel pain in my lower body even after four months.”

Hlaing Myint said he entered Malaysia with a valid passport and visa but became undocumented after leaving his factory job because of exploitative conditions. He said the factory owner kept his passport.

The government's corporeal punishment against undocumented workers has been widely criticized by Malaysian human rights groups and migrants' rights groups as a gross violation of human rights. According to Section 6 of the Malaysian Immigration Act, persons without documents or without a valid visa can be sentenced to up to five years in prison, fined up to 10,000 ringgit (US $2,800) and given up to six strokes of the cane.

Latheefa Koya, a Malaysian lawyer who represents migrant workers, told The Irrawaddy, “Under Malaysian law there is no protection for any type of refugee, unfortunately. We have not signed any conventions. Under the Immigration Act, anyone without a proper passport or visa will be deemed illegal, regardless of whether they are a refugee or trafficking victim or an asylum seeker. They don't differentiate from a normal illegal migrant”

“It's a very horrible procedure [caning], and it leaves marks o­n the body,” Latheefa said. “Migrants are sentenced in courts in immigration detention centers all over the country. Every day you're looking at 200 to 300 people in o­ne court and out of that, we don't know how many are being caned, but it could be a large number”.

Since 2002, about 20,000 people have been caned after court sentencing, according to Tenanaganita, a Malaysia migrant advocacy group.

Aegile Fernandez, the program director, said, “We say that it's torture and it must stop. Being undocumented is not a crime—it's more an administrative issue with papers and moreover many of the migrants have documents, but they are being held by their employers. But the courts do not ask about that. They just charge them and send them for whipping. It is a gross injustice by the state.”

She said there was o­ne case of a 15-year-old refugee being whipped with a cane.
"How can children be whipped?" she asked. "This is a gross injustice.”

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