Four Myanmar Workers Killed in Machete Attack in Malaysia

The assailants are still at large, and a motive for the attack is unknown.

A Myanmar migrant worker ties a rope to a crate at a market in the town of Bukit Mertajam in Central Seberang Perai, Penang, Malaysia, Dec. 17, 2016.

A machete attack on 13 Myanmar nationals in Malaysia on Thursday has left four men dead and three seriously injured as the group returned from working overtime in the capital Kuala Lumpur, said a Myanmar civil society organization that operates in the area.

The deadly assault occurred in the Bukit Serdang area in the southern part of the city after the men left a television hardware factory where they worked at 10 p.m., said San Win, chairman of the Kathpone Free Funeral Service Society in Kuala Lumpur, which provides free funerals for its impoverished citizens in the country.

“Thirteen people were returning to their homes together after they had worked overtime, and a group of people attacked them with knives,” San Win said. “Four were killed, and three were sent to a hospital. They didn’t see well who the attackers were because it was nighttime.”

One of the three sent to Serdang general hospital died Friday evening, he said.

Myanmar embassy officials have filed a case at a local police station, San Win said.

A motive for the attack remains unknown.

San Win told the online journal The Irrawaddy that four of the victims had official passports while another three are believed to be migrant workers.

Previous attacks on migrant workers

Thousands of workers returned to Myanmar from Malaysia in 2014 after roughly 25 were killed between June 2013 and September 2014 in what some observers told Malaysia media at the time may have been links to communal violence in Rakhine, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency said in a Dec. 7, 2016, report.

There are more than 400,000 Myanmar migrant workers in Malaysia, around 100,000 of whom are illegal workers, according to Myanmar’s embassy in Kuala Lumpur, though some estimate the number of undocumented Myanmar workers in the country at about 500,000, the report said.

Many working in the country illegally often work long hours in dangerous conditions with few means of getting better conditions or pay, it said.

Last July, the Myanmar embassy in Malaysia created a protection task force for migrant workers made up of representatives from roughly 50 civil society organizations based in the country, including the Kathpone Free Funeral Service Society, the Myanmar Times reported.

The Myanmar government last December stopped sending workers to Malaysia out of safety concerns amid growing tension between the two nations over the conflict in Myanmar’s restive Rakhine state involving the treatment of the stateless Rohingya Muslim minority group.

Muslim-majority Malaysia criticized the Myanmar government and the country’s powerful military for alleged violent acts against the Rohingya during a crackdown in northern Rakhine following deadly attacks on border guard stations in the region.

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak said Buddhist-majority Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya amounted to “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing,” prompting Myanmar to hit back at Malaysia for meddling in its affairs.

Reported by Zarni Htun for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.