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Death toll rises in KL clashes

KUALA LUMPUR -- Five people were killed, 37 injured and 153 arrested in four days of clashes between residents
in a racially-mixed district near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian police said on Sunday, although local residents claimed the
death and injury toll were higher.

Hundreds of paramilitaries, riot police and regular officers -- reinforced by officers from two other states -- were
patrolling districts around Jalan Klang Lama in Petaling Jaya, south-west of Kuala Lumpur. Two police helicopters
were also monitoring the area.

Among the 96 weapons seized so far were eight home-made bombs, machetes, knives, samurai swords, catapults, chains, steel pipes, batons and axes, said deputy national police chief Mohamad Jamil Johari. 'The situation is under control and calm now,' said Mr Jamil on Sunday morning, quoted by Bernama news agency.

He said four of the 37 injured were in a serious condition. Those hurt were slashed on Saturday and early on Sunday in separate districts of Petaling Jaya. One of the dead was an Indonesian. At least three of those killed and 34 of the injured were ethnic Indian, police spokesman Benjamin Hasbie said. Of those arrested, 88 were ethnic Malays, 56 were ethnic Indian and the others were Indonesians living in Malaysia.

The fighting had origins in a row last weekend between an Indian funeral procession and Malays celebrating a wedding. According to stories circulating in the area, a drunken Indian man kicked over a chair at the Malay party, leading to
the fighting.

Mr Jamil said that almost 700 people -- regular police, volunteer police and ambulance personnel -- were stationed in the area.

Authorities in the multiracial nation played down the ethnic nature of the battles. Racial clashes have been rare in Malaysia over the past three decades. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said that the fights were unplanned. 'There were no racial clashes but when people start spreading rumours that Indians are attacking Malays, then people come out and it happens,' the Star newspaper quoted him as saying on Saturday. 'It is not like what happened in Indonesia,' the Sun quoted him as saying.

Dr Mahathir said action would be taken against rumour-mongers blamed for fomenting the clashes. He described the situation as under control. -- AFP/AP

10 March 07:05PM -- Singapore Time

Three dead in Malay-Indian clashes outside KL

KUALA LUMPUR -- Malay Muslims and ethnic Indians insulted and attacked each other on Saturday in townships on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, where the death toll from three days of clashes rose to three. Police said the latest fatality, an Indian man, died of injuries in a hospital on Saturday afternoon. Details were not immediately available. The government, seeking to calm passions, downplayed suggestions of a racial conflict but sent in reinforcements for the 400 officers who so far have been unable to contain the violence.

Mr Jamil Johari, the police deputy inspector-general, said that since Thursday, three people have been killed, three seriously injured and 11 hospitalised. Thirty-five have been arrested, 32 of them Malays, he said. Those arrested included five off-duty soldiers.

'We will be extra vigilant at night, and I advise people not to congregate in large numbers,' he said. 'There is no need for a curfew at the moment.' Many families were moving out of the area, which comprises five villages and is home to about 2,000 families, mostly poor labourers or squatters.

Police searched vehicles at roadblocks, confiscating machete-like weapons known as parangs, hockey sticks and iron staves. They geared up for another night of violence breaking out.Despite the police presence, Malays and Indians hurled insults at each other and an Indian group chased a Malay man, seized his motorcycle and set it on fire.

Indians shouted at the predominantly Malay police, accusing them of not doing enough to halt the violence. All three people killed and the majority of injured have been Indians. Local residents claimed the death toll was higher.

'Five people have died,' claimed an Indian woman who refused to give her name. 'The police are not doing anything to help us. They just tell us to wait in the house.'

The woman claimed that she saw a man being slashed and killed by a parang-wielding gang early on Saturday and that people screamed futilely for police to help him. Janakan Pillai, 23, said from his hospital bed on Saturday that he had been beaten by about 40 Malay youths using hockey sticks and iron staves. His aunt, who spoke only on condition of anonymity, said Malay youths had threatened to burn down houses. Malays accused Indians of lying in wait to attack them. Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Abdullah Badawi urged people to ignore 'rumours'. The media were advised to report only police accounts.

'People are quick to jump to conclusion that it was a fight with racial connotations,' Mr Abdullah said. 'It could have been an altercation between individuals who happen to be of different races and religions.' Veteran opposition leader Lim Kit Siang urged the Deputy Premier to go to the area himself to defuse the tensions and put together economic aid to redress the
'poverty and social backwardness in the area'.

The fighting had origins in a row last weekend between an Indian funeral procession and Malays celebrating a wedding. According to stories circulating in the area, a drunken Indian man kicked over a chair at the Malay party, leading to
the fighting. -- AP

From The South China Morning Post, HK
12th March 2001

Racial violence shatters lengthy period of peace
IAN STEWART in Kuala Lumpur


Under investigation: Malays with homemade weapons search for Indians from the rooftop of a house in the Old Klang district on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur yesterday. Associated Press photo The explosion of racial violence in a Kuala Lumpur suburb last week has shattered a long period of relative ethnic peace in the country. But analysts said they were not entirely surprised that the Malay-Indian clashes - the worst inter-racial clashes in more than 30 years - had occurred. Malaysia was fortunate, they said, in not having seen more eruptions given its racial and religious mix. Malays and other indigenous people represent about 60 per cent of the population, while Chinese make up 26 per cent and Indians about nine per cent. There are also many migrant workers from countries such as Indonesia and Bangladesh.

The neighbourhood on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur that was the site of the clashes, Old Klang, is more like a rural village than part of a metropolis. The people, who are mainly small traders and factory workers, live in shop-houses or in small homes built without permits on government land. The Indians have their temples and the Malays their mosques. They live
separate lives, except when working together. Some Chinese also live in the area. The death toll of five in last week's violence was light compared with the most serious incident in modern Malaysia's history on May 13, 1969, when racial clashes resulted in the deaths of nearly 200 people, more than 70 per cent of them Chinese. The introduction of affirmative action policies aimed at giving Malays a larger share of the nation's wealth and special consideration in securing jobs and entry to universities helped ease tensions between Malays and Chinese.

But despite attempts to forge a Malaysian identity, surveys show that Malays, Chinese and Indians prefer their own company. Religion as well as race can be a divisive issue. In March 1998, Malay Muslims and Indian Hindus in Kampung Rawa,
Penang, engaged in street fights following a dispute over the construction of a temple. Police had to use tear-gas to break up the antagonists.

However, analysts do not see Malaysia facing the kind of racial unrest experienced by Indonesia, which has 10 times the population, many more ethnic groups and grinding poverty.

From The Times, UK
12th March 2001

Malay youths armed with makeshift weapons such as sticks and iron pipes roamed Kuala Lumpur's suburbs yesterday in search of ethnic Indians

Five killed in Malaysia riots
BY JAMES PRINGLE


THE spectre of intercommunal violence raised its head in Malaysia yesterday after five people died in ethnic fighting. Riot police armed with water cannon were on the streets as clashes involving hundreds of people also left 37 injured. Police said last
night that the situation was under control, although they admitted that tension was running high.

The number of people killed in incidents between the minority Indians and majority Malays rose from three when two more people died yesterday, police said. But there was no plan to impose a curfew where the incidents occurred, in the largely residential Pataling Jaya area, in the suburbs of the capital Kuala Lumpur, the police added.

Skirmishes broke out a week ago yesterday when a Hindu funeral procession passed through a Malay wedding party instead of following an agreed route, a Hindu community leader said. The incidents happened after clashes last week over a smashed car
windscreen. After an initial skirmish a group armed with machetes, sticks and iron pipes attacked residents of several blocks of flats. The police said that hundreds were involved in the fighting, leaving 37 injured, four of them seriously. Reports said that police had arrested 153 people.

The Government has played down the ethnic element in the fighting. Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the Prime Minister, advised residents not to be unduly alarmed. “The clashes were not planned. There were no racial clashes, but when people start spreading rumours that Indians are attacking Malays, then people come out and it happens,” the Prime Minister was quoted as saying.

Analysts said that this was the first serious ethnic incident since March 1998, when nine people were injured during Hindu-Muslim clashes over the relocation of a Hindu shrine. Many Malaysians fear that instability could trigger ethnic riots like those that erupted in 1969. Malays total about 55 per cent of Malaysia’s population, Chinese 30 per cent and ethnic Indians about 10 per cent.

From The International Herald Tribune
12th March 2001

Malaysia Is Stricken by Ethnic Bloodshed Worst Strife in 30 Yearsy by Thomas Fuller of International Herald Tribune Officials Minimize

KAMPUNG MEDAN, Malaysia At least five people have been killed and dozens injured in the worst racial violence to strike Malaysia in three decades. The police said Sunday that they had arrested 154 people in and around this gritty and impoverished suburb of Kuala Lumpur, where street fighting between Malays, the country's dominant ethnic group, and
Indians has flared intermittently since Thursday.
.
Most of the victims were Indian, including 4 of the dead and 34 of the 37 wounded, according to the police. Many of the wounded had serious slash wounds and two men were reported to be in comas. The police said they had confiscated iron rods, hoes, knives and samurai swords from people living in the area. The government deployed 400 army and police personnel in the streets of the suburb in an effort to stop the fighting.
.
The underlying causes of the violence remain unclear; many residents said they never had any trouble with their neighbors. But some Indians, who are mostly Hindu, said groups of assailants chanted "God is Great!" in Arabic as they set upon their victims.
Malays, who make up about 55 percent of the population, are almost all Muslim.
.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad, urged the country's news media to play down the violence, telling local newspapers "it is not like what happened in Indonesia" - an apparent reference to recent ethnic clashes on Borneo. Many newspapers followed the prime minister's advice, burying the news of the killings in the inside pages of their Sunday editions.
.
But the proximity of the violence to modern, central Kuala Lumpur - Kamung Medan is a 40-minute drive from the world's tallest towers in the heart of the city - left many local officials clearly shaken. "For 43 years we have built this nation," said Shamsuddin Alias, a district officer who spoke to a group of about 200 residents Sunday. "Now, for four days and three nights we have been living in anxiety just because of a few people among us." He added: "We must show strong solidarity between the races."
.
Lim Kit Siang, a leader of the political opposition, described the violence as the "worst ethnic clashes in the last 32 years." .
Racial violence is relatively rare in Malaysia, with the last major clash occurring in 1969, when more than a hundred people were killed in election-related violence between Malays and Chinese, the country's second-largest ethnic group.
.
"Authorities should turn the ghetto settlements into a better living environment to prevent further incidents," Mr. Lim said..
Unlike the affluent parts of Kuala Lumpur that are a 20-minute drive away, Kampung Medan and the surrounding areas never saw the economic boom of the 1990s. A vast jumble of vacant lots and poorly maintained roads where families often live on less than $300 a month, the neighborhood is sandwiched between a Guinness brewery, a tire factory and other industrial sites.
.
Indian residents in squatter areas complained Sunday that the police, who are overwhelmingly Malay and Muslim, had not done enough to stop the violence. Parameswary Batumalai, 28, who lives along a row of cheaply made cinder-block houses with zinc roofs, described in an interview Sunday the killing of one of her neighbors, Muniratnem, a father of four who worked as a bartender in central Kuala Lumpur.
.
The police, she said, stood by and watched as Mr. Muniratnem was beaten by four young men armed with sticks and motorcycle helmets. Miss Parameswary said she witnessed the beating after being roused from her home at 3 a.m. on Saturday by the screaming of Mr. Muniratnem. She left her house carrying a stick that she had fashioned into a weapon by driving a nail into one end.
.
Although she could see Mr. Muniratnem being attacked, she and dozens of other neighbors were stopped by the police from going to his aid, she said. "I could see him being beaten and heard his screams," Miss Parameswary said. "A police car pulled up and stopped us from going any further."
.
Mr. Muniratnem's body was cremated Sunday morning. The accounts of such violence are unlikely to be told in the local
newspapers. Malaysia's deputy prime minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, advised the local media Saturday to get their information from the police, and not from people living in the affected suburbs.
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