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Friday, 25 January, 2002, 13:06 GMT
Burmese seek refuge in UN office
A group of illegal Rohingya Muslim immigrants on the grounds of the UNHCR office in Kuala Lumpur
The refugees say they are facing persecution in Burma
A group of Burmese Muslims has taken refuge in the grounds of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.


Seven of our family have been arrested and we are asking for help from the UNCHR

Habib Peter, refugee
The group of 28 men, women and children said they were seeking asylum after fleeing persecution in Burma.

They are all members of the Rohingya community in Burma's western state of Rakhine, across the border from Bangladesh.

"We are stateless, we can't go back to Burma because of the oppression," one of the refugees, Habib Peter, said across the fence of the compound.

"We can't stay in Malaysia either because of the constant police crackdown. Seven of our family have been arrested and we are asking for help from the UNCHR."

Cases considered

Mr Peter said the group entered Malaysia illegally several years ago, and were now scared of being deported back to Burma.

A security guard tries to stop Habib Peter (r) an his nephew from speaking to the media from across the fence
Refugees fear deportation to Burma

Yoshiteo Tsuji, a senior UNHCR official in Malaysia, said the group would be allowed to stay temporarily while their cases were being considered.

He said that some of the refugees had previously applied for asylum, but their requests were rejected.

Another group of Burmese refugees, who later tried to enter the UNHCR office, was stopped by the Malaysian police.

Persecution

Thousands of Rohingya Muslims from predominantly Buddhist Burma still remain in refugee camps in Bangladesh, a decade after 250,00 fled there to escape alleged persecution under the Burmese military, including killings and rape.

International human rights groups have said recently that Burma must improve the treatment of Rohingyas, who face discrimination, forced labour and arbitrary confiscation of their property.

In a report two years ago, Human Rights Watch accused the Burmese Government of refusing to recognise the Rohingyas' claim to Burmese citizenship.

It said many refugees had a well-founded fear of persecution if they returned to Burma.

See also:

27 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
Thailand closes Burmese camp
30 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
'Burmese refugees persecuted'
17 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
Thailand defends refugee policy
03 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Burma's intelligence chief in Thailand
26 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Burma frees 84 opposition activists
24 Jan 00 | Asia-Pacific
Hundreds held in Thai siege
27 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Burma
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