Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Burmese refugees protest in front of UN office in Malaysia

by Myint Maung

New Delhi (Mizzima) - Nearly three hundred Burmese refugees on Wednesday demonstrated in front of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Malaysia's capital of Kuala Lumpur, demanding recognition of refugee status and equal treatment among refugees.

The protestors, mainly Rohingyas from Burma's western Arakan state, said they were being treated differently and were not being granted equal status by the UN agency.

Nyi Nyi, a leader of the protestors, said they held a brief demonstration and submitted their demands in writing to an official from the agency.

"We are demanding recognition as refugees, equal treatment by the office and a cessation to official corruption in granting refugee recognition," Nyi Nyi said.

Nyi Nyi added that they were met by a protection officer from the UNHCR office, to whom they handed their demands.

The UNHCR, however, denied the allegation, saying they treat all refugees equally.

Yante Ismail, the UNHCR Kuala Lumpur office spokesperson, was quoted by the AFP as saying, "UNHCR's policies towards all refugee groups are nondiscriminatory. We do our utmost to assist and protect all refugees."

"The UNHCR will continue to engage different refugee communities to address their problems," she stipulated.

According to the UNHCR there are some 45,400 refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia, of whom approximately 40,000 are from Burma – with the majority of the Burmese refugees reportedly Rohingya Muslims from Burma's Arakan state.

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