After court halts deportation of 1,200 foreign nationals, Pakatan calls for govt to initiate regional talks on Myanmar coup

Emmanuel Santa Maria Chin
·3-min read
Myanmar migrants to be deported from Malaysia are seen inside an immigration truck, in Lumut February 23, 2021. — Reuters pic
Myanmar migrants to be deported from Malaysia are seen inside an immigration truck, in Lumut February 23, 2021. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 23 — Opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan (PH) today called on the government to initiate a regional dialogue among Asean leaders to find a solution to the recent military coup and restore democracy in Myanmar.

PH zoomed in on the importance of such a discourse taking place soon, to end alleged persecution and rights abuse by the junta, underscored by a recent decision by the Kuala Lumpur High Court to grant a temporary stay of deportation to some 1,200 Myanmar nationals earlier today.

The temporary stay was granted until tomorrow morning when a judicial review of the repatriation will be heard by the court.

“PH calls on the Malaysian government to initiate a dialogue between Asean leaders and the Myanmar Junta in order to end the violent repression of peaceful demonstrators, to release prisoners of conscience, and return democracy and the institution of Parliament in Myanmar,” read a statement issued by the coalition.

The statement, endorsed by its three party leaders, namely Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (PKR), Mohamad Sabu (Parti Amanah Negara) and Lim Guan Eng (DAP), despite urging the government to reconsider its decision to deport the Myanmar nationals, then expressed their concerns if such a request would even be considered.

“Even so, this decision (by the courts) may not stop the Malaysian government from continuing with the repatriation process after that period is over.

“PH stresses that the Malaysian government must reconsider the repatriation of 1,200 Myanmar nationals because such an action would legitimise and acknowledge the Tatmadaw military junta.

“The act of repatriating refugees to a conflict zone before stability and peace has been truly established may jeopardise the safety of these refugees,” read the statement.

The foreign nationals were supposed to be deported earlier today, via three Navy ships docked at the Lumut, Perak port sent by Myanmar’s military that seized power in the country through a February 1 coup, before the Court’s decision at the noon hearing today.

The power grab by the Myanmar military triggered protests and demonstrations by pro-democracy activists in locations throughout the country, with even several fatalities reported as a result of the clashes with the junta.

Reports had claimed that among the 1,200 set to be repatriated by Malaysia include several with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) cards and even minors with one parent in Malaysia.

This despite the government earlier promising not to deport Rohingya Muslims or refugees registered with the UNHCR.

Refugee groups say asylum seekers from the minority Chin, Kachin and non-Rohingya Muslim communities fleeing conflict and persecution at home are among those being deported.

PH today also expressed its worry towards these claims of minors and documented refugees being among those set to be deported.

“If this is true, then it is a worrying development. We therefore request that the authorities, with the assistance of the UNHCR, promptly verify whether this is truly the case or not,” PH said.

This also comes a day after PH likened the Perikatan Nasional government to the military government currently ruling Myanmar, saying both were alike in their efforts to subvert democracy through the suspension of Parliament

PH had said both administrations also used the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse to impose autocratic rule as a way to divert attention from their failure to tackle the health and economic crisis effectively.

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