A Myanmar government delegation traveled to Malaysia this week to defuse tensions following a recent spate of violent incidents among migrant workers from Myanmar and to help send home those living illegally in the neighboring country, officials said.
The eight-member delegation arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday and met with workers injured in clashes believed to be linked to sectarian violence between Muslims and Buddhists in Myanmar.
Last week Malaysian police detained 900 Myanmar nationals in a security sweep after clashes in the city between May 30 and June 4 left at least six dead and others injured.
Deputy foreign minister Zin Yaw, who led the delegation, said its objective was to calm tensions and help Myanmar nationals who fear for their safety in the wake of the clashes and want to return home, including those living in Malaysia illegally.
“If those people [living in Malaysia illegally] want to return, they need to come to the Myanmar Embassy and get a Certificate of Identity,” he told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
He said they will be allowed to leave after paying a fee of 400 ringgits (about U.S. $130) to the Malaysia immigration office if they have overstayed their visas or come to the country illegally.
“Then if they have plane tickets they can return to Myanmar as soon as they get receipts from the immigration office,” he said.
Myanmar’s national airline is offering half-price tickets on one-way trips from Malaysia for those who want to go home.
Malaysian police have released legal workers picked up in last week’s sweep, but are still holding some workers who were found to be holding fake identity cards from the U.N. refugee agency, Zin Yaw said.
He said police had shared photos of three people wanted in connection with the clashes and that based on eyewitness accounts, officials believe there was a group of individuals who had instigated the attacks.
“There must be a group or an organization that caused these clashes to happen,” he said.
The violence began when a Myanmar man was beheaded by unknown assailants.
Muslim-majority Malaysia says it is home to more than 80,000 Myanmar nationals, many of them members of the Muslim ethnic Rohingya minority fleeing alleged persecution by Myanmar's Buddhist authorities and, more recently, violence in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
Deadly sectarian strife pitting Myanmar's majority Buddhists against the Muslim ethnic Rohingya minority has flared in Rakhine since last year, and this year further clashes between members of the two religious groups struck the central part of the country in May.
Myanmar's deputy labor minister Win Maw Htun, also part of the delegation, said the group would investigate the recent clashes in Malaysia and would try to help ease tensions among the migrant Myanmar workers there.
“We have to work on creating awareness,” she told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
“We will educate people who still want to stay here to take good care of themselves … and not to break the law of the country that they are staying in.”
Reported by Khin Maung Soe for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.