We, the undersigned, are alarmed to hear that Sa La Hin, 26, and Thang Hoih Ping, 21, two Burmese migrants, have died in Malaysia's Juru Immigration Detention Centre from Leptospirosis. This is a disease that is usually caused by exposure to water contaminated by the urine of infected animals such as rodents, cattle, pigs, horses, dogs and wild animals. The fact that two persons are dead and others have been infected by this disease, again highlights the state of hygiene, cleanliness and healthcare at Malaysian detention centres.
We recall that it was reported in the media in December 2008 that about 1,300 illegal foreigners have died during detention in the past six years, Malaysia Nanban quoted Malaysian Human Rights (Suhakam) commissioner N. Siva Subramaniam as saying. He said many of them died in immigration detention centres, prisons and police lockups because they were denied medical treatment at the right time.
Now, Sa La Hin and Thang Hoih Ping may just be the latest additions to that list of detainees that died due to similar reasons.
We also recall the words of Suhakam, in their response to the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) dated 13 January 2009 stated that: "... SUHAKAM views the denial of medical attention to the point of endangering one's life as a serious violation of that person's right to life...."
These deaths may have been avoided if medical attention was provided promptly, and we call for an independent public inquiry to determine whether there was such negligence on the part of the Ikatan Relawan Rakyat or better known as RELA (a people's volunteer corps), and the Immigration officers, who are currently responsible for Immigration detention centres in Malaysia.
We do appreciate the fact that the Director General of Immigration has now decided that ‘cleanliness and hygiene at immigration depots nationwide are to be stepped-up to ensure safety of staff and inmates there against contracting infectious diseases'.
We hope that this is not merely a knee-jerk response, which is temporary in nature, but a new and permanent commitment by Malaysia to improve standards and conditions of detention centres and other places of detention.
The current once a week visit by a medical officer to the detention centres is certainly inadequate. There should be, at the very least, a permanent clinic/dispensary manned by a medical assistant with a doctor visiting detainees for several hours at least once every two days or more frequently.
New users of the Detention facility should also be determined free from easily transmittable diseases like tuberculosis and the A(H1N1) flu before being introduced to the general population of detention places.
There should also be regular visits by health officer, who shall monitor the condition, including of the living and sleeping environment, of the detention centre to ensure that it meets the highest standards of hygiene and cleanliness.
The foods, and all aspects of food preparation, also need to be monitored by the Health Department especially since there is a possibility that the fault in the recent deaths could be the current caterer of food and drink.
With regard to those who have died, we are of the opinion that their family and/or dependents should be given adequate compensation by the persons responsible, the detaining authority and the Malaysian government.
Officers and persons responsible for the acts or omissions that resulted in death and suffering should be charged and prosecuted for these crimes. They should not be permitted to hide behind safeguards provided to public servants and/or the RELA volunteers, which unfortunately only promotes culture of impunity with no sense of responsibility and respect for human life.
We, the undersigned, call on the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM) to immediately commence a public inquiry into these deaths and detention places generally, and come up with concrete recommendations which could be implemented that will improve state of cleanliness, hygiene and healthcare of all detention places in Malaysia.
We also call upon the Ministry of Health and the government of Malaysia to take necessary steps to ensure proper steps be taken to ensure that such disregard for life does not happen again.
We reiterate the call for the abolition of RELA, and restate our position that law enforcement, and management of detention places should be done by professionally trained full-time public servants, not volunteers.
For and on behalf of the 114 organisations/groups listed below:
Action for Health Initiatives (ACHIEVE), Inc, Philippines
Action Network for Migrants (ANM), Thailand
All Women's Action Society (AWAM), Malaysia
Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma
Asia Pacific Forum on Women Law and Development (APWLD)
Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM), Hong Kong
Asia-Pacific Solidarity Coalition (APSOC)
Asia Pacific Workers Solidarity Link (APWSL), Korea
Asian Migrants' Coordinating Body - Hong Kong (AMCB-HK)
Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma)-AAPP
Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Bar Council Human Rights Committee, Malaysia
Bar Council's Legal Aid Centre, Malaysia
Building and Wood Workers International, Asia Pacific Regional Office
Burma Campaign Australia
Burma Campaign, Malaysia
Burma Campaign UK
Burma Centre Delhi (BCD)
Burma's Nationalities Association (BNA)- Norway
Cambodian Women's Crisis Center
Canadian Friends of Burma (CFOB)
CDS (Community Development Services), Sri Lanka
Center for Migrant Advocacy, Philippines
Center for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC), Malaysia
Centre for Public Policy Studies (CPPS), Malaysia
Chin Human Rights Organization
Civil Society Committee of LLG Cultural Development Centre (LLGCSC) Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach (USA)
Commission For Filipino Migrant Workers (CFMW) - The Netherlands
Committee for Asian Women (CAW)
Coordination of Action Research on AIDS & Mobility (CARAM -Asia)
Democratic Party for a New Society (DPNS), Burma
Development Action for Women Network (DAWN), Philippines
Empower Foundation, Thailand
Ethnic Nationalities Council
FIDH - International Federation for Human Rights
Filipino Migrant Workers' Union - Hong Kong (FMWU)
Forum for Democracy in Burma
Foundation for Education and Development (Formerly, Grassroots HRE (Burma)
Free Burma Coalition - Philippines (FBC-Phils)
Free Burma Campaign, South Africa
Friends of Burma, Malaysia
Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW)
HAKAM - National Human Rights Society, Malaysia
Health Equity Initiatives, Malaysia
H.O.M.E. (Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics), Singapore
Hope Workers' Center, Taiwan
HRWG - Indonesia's NGO Coalition for International Advocacy
Hsinchu Catholic Diocese Migrants and New Immigrants Service Center, Taiwan
IMPARSIAL, the Indonesia Human Rights Monitor, Jakarta - Indonesia
INFID (International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development)
Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID)
Kachin Women's Association Thailand
KAFIN Migrant Center, Japan
KAFIN - Saitama, Japan
Kayan National Development Foundation (KNDF)
Khmer Kampuchea Krom Human rights Organisation (KKKHRO), Cambodia
Labour Resource Centre, Malaysia
Legal Support for Children and Women (LSCW), Cambodia
LHRLA (Lawyers for Human Rights & Legal Aid), Pakistan
MADPET (Malaysians against Death Penalty and Torture)
Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC)
Mekong Migration Network (MMN)
Migrant CARE, Perhimpunan Indonesia untuk Buruh Migran Berdaulat
Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA)
MIGRANTE Middle East
MIGRANTE - Nagoya
MIGRANTE - UAE
Mindanao Migrants Center for Empowering Actions, Inc. (MMCEAI)
Myanmar Ethnic Rohingyas Human Rights Organization Malaysia (MERHROM)
National Democratic Party for Human Rights(NDPHR)(exile),SEA Regional Office
National League for Democracy [NLD (LA)], Malaysia
National Institute for Electoral Integrity (NIEI), Malaysia
National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, U.S.
Network for Democracy and Development, Thailand
Network of Action for Migrants in Malaysia (NAMM)
New Zealand Burma Support Group
NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines
OKUP (Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Program), Bangladesh
Osan Migrant Workers Center in South Korea
Palaung State Liberation Front (PSLF)
Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR)
Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM)
Peoples Service Organization (PSO), Malaysia
Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangot (EMPOWER)
Persatuan Masyarakat Selangor & Wilayah Persekutuan (PERMAS), Malaysia
Persatuan Sahabat Wanita, Selangor
Platform of Filipino Migrant Organisations in Europe - The Netherlands
Pusat KOMAS, Malaysia
Raks Thai Foundation, Thailand
Rohingya Youth Development Forum (RYDF), Malaysia
Shan Refugee Organization Malaysia (SRO)
Shan Women's Action Network (SWAN)
Shwe Gas Movement
St. John's Cathedral HIV Education Centre, Hong Kong
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
The Foundation for the Health and Knowledge of Ethnic Labour (MAP)
The Justice, Peace & Solidarity in Mission Office, The Good Shepherd Sisters
The Micah Mandate
Transient Workers Count Too, Singapore
United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK)
U.S. Campaign for Burma
WARBE Development Foundation - Bangladesh
Women's Aid Organisation (WAO), Malaysia
Women's League of Burma
Workers Hub for Change (WH4C)