Kuala Lumpur: Over 70 Arakanese refugees staged a demonstration on Monday in front of the UNHCR office in Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur, demanding immediate attention to their plight as unregistered refugees.
Saw Than, the spokesperson for the demonstration, said that they were facing arrest by authorities as well as a lack of food and shelter due to their neglect by the UNHCR in Malaysia.
"More than 300 Arakanese refugees have been held in the detention camps for more than a year, and many others, including us who had applied for status since 2008, are still being ignored by the UNHCR. We are now facing arrest by the Malaysian authorities and a lack of food, shelter, and medical assistance," he told Narinjara over telephone.
He also said, "We feel we are also being discriminated against by the UNHCR here because the UNHCR has recognized so many other ethnic people from Burma as refugees since 2008, but not a single Arakanese has been among those [refugee] registrations."
Narinjara attempted to contact the UNHCR office in Malaysia via telephone but was unable to reach anyone there.
Saw Than added that the demonstration had lasted for nearly one and half hours and was peacefully concluded when Mr. Mikael, the UNHCR Malaysia Registration Officer, promised to consider their demands as soon as possible. The list of protesters present was also taken by the UNHCR and the local police.
According to the Arakan Refugee Relief Committee based in Kuala Lumpur, over 10,000 Arakanese refugees are currently sheltering in Malaysia after fleeing persecution at the hands of the Burmese military regime. However, very few of them have been registered as refugees by the UNHCR office in Malaysia.