Asean Lawmaker Group Slams Malaysia Over Migrant Detentions

A caucus of lawmakers from across Asean on Monday called for better treatment of undocumented migrants—and criminal charges against those who abuse them—in Malaysia, where at least three Cambodians have died in government custody over the past two years, according to a new report.

The statement from the ­Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) comes ahead of a pending report from Malaysia’s National Human Rights Commission revealing that at least 118 people died in Malaysia’s detention centers for undocumented immigrants last year and the year before.

Reuters, which saw an advance copy of the commission’s work, has reported that three of the dead were Cambodian and that two of them died in 2015.

According to Reuters, the commission’s documents attribute the deaths to “various diseases and unknown causes.” Reuters said it spoke with 13 former detainees who recalled being beaten by guards or witnessing them beat other detainees.

Cambodian opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua, vice chair of the APHR, accused Malaysia of running the centers “like death camps,” according to the statement from the group.

“The government can no longer allow apathy to be the order of the day,” she was quoted as saying. “Family members of the victims who inhumanely lost their lives while in detention have the right to justice.”

Cambodia put a ban on sending its nationals to Malaysia to work as maids in 2011 following mounting reports that they were being abused by their employers in Malaysia. It signed a memorandum of understanding with Malaysia to lift the moratorium in late 2015, but has yet to finalize new safety protocols and actually end the ban.

Last year, The Cambodia Daily reported on two women recently released from one of the detention centers in Malaysia who said they saw fellow detainees die in custody after being severely and repeatedly beaten by guards. One of the women said she saw five Cambodians die while in custody, though Malaysian authorities later said only one Cambodian died at the center in last year.

As a consequence of the revelations, Malaysia’s human rights commission visited the center and said they were told that a woman being treated for heart disease had died of a heart attack, but noted that no autopsy was carried out. The commission recommended that a post mortem be carried out after every death at the centers.

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