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MALAYSIA – Release the 14 Burmese asylum seekers now!

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FORUM-ASIA denounces the continued detention of 14 Burmese refugees and
asylum seekers in Malaysia for celebrating Aung San Suu Kyi's birthday in a
peaceful assembly on 19 June 2009.  
(22 June 2009, Bangkok) The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development
(FORUM-ASIA) denounces the continued detention of 14 Burmese refugees and
asylum seekers in Malaysia for celebrating Aung San Suu Kyi's birthday in a
peaceful assembly on 19 June 2009.  

The team of 30 police officers arrested 16 Burmese who were peacefully celebrating
the event. Among them, nine are registered with the United Nations of High
Commission for Refugee (UNHCR). Two, both with valid residential documents,
were released later, but the rest remain detained until today.

"These Burmese detainees may face a sentence of
up to six strokes of whipping, a punishment tantamount to torture on top of a
fine of 10,000 Ringgit (about 2,630 USD) and a prison sentence
of up to five years if they are convicted for entering the country illegally",
said Yuyun Wahyuningrum, East Asia program manager of FORUM-ASIA.

The organisation has also expressed concern over the denial of access to
legal counsel to the detainees. "Malaysian
government should grant the lawyers immediate access to the detainees. No
country can claim to be upholding the rule of law when basic rights such as the
right to legal counsel is denied to detainees", said Yuyun.

FORUM-ASIA urges the Malaysian government to release the 14 Burmese
detainees, who have been handed over to the Immigration Department on 22 June
2009. The ground for their detention has since based on their undocumented
status in the country. They would not have been arrested, FORUM-ASIA said, if
they were not involved in the public assembly.

According to the annual World Refugee Survey 2009 report, Malaysia is
one of the worst places for refugees together with Egypt, Gaza,
Kenya, South Africa, Thailand and Turkey. "We call on the Malaysian government to abolish the
whipping punishment in all its immigration laws as this is an inhumane
punishment. Malaysia should also ratify the Convention Relating to the Status
of Refugee 1951 and its Optional Protocol", stressed Yuyun.

"As a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Malaysia should
respect the right to seek political asylum and their right to freedom of
_expression and assembly. We call on the Malaysian government to allow UNHCR to
conduct refugee status registration of the five detainees who are yet to be