LEPTOSPIROSIS CAUSES DEATH OF ANOTHER 6 BURMESE IN DETENTION IN MALAYSIA
DENIAL OF HEALTHCARE IS A VIOLATION OF RIGHT TO LIFE
We are shocked and disappointed to hear that another six Burmese migrants have died while in detention in Malaysia because of a suspected waterborne disease. Leptospirosis is caused by exposure to water contaminated by animal urine, like rat urine. (Straits Times, 25/9/2009, Migrants die in detention/ Associated Press, 24/9/2009).
From our investigation, the names of 3 of those who have died are So Thein [Prison Body number 0853, Block B1, Ethnicity: Burman, Age: 36], Min Khaing [Body number 5009, Ethnicity: Karen, Age: 23] and Min Nown [Ethnicity: Arkan, Age: 28]. The other 3 are of Chin ethnicity. It seems that the deaths happened in August.
This time the deaths seem to have occurred at the Detention Centre at the KL International Airport (KLIA) depot. The Straits Times report states that an official had informed them that ‘…the detainees likely contracted the disease in another centre. They were transferred together with some 700 others after a riot there…’. In an earlier report (Star, 24/7/2009), it was stated that ‘…some 700 Myanmar illegal immigrants involved in a ruckus at the Semenyih immigration depot early this month have been moved to the department’s KL International Airport (KLIA) depot…’
It must be noted that this is not the first case of death by reason of Leptospirosis. Sa La Hin, 26, and Thang Hoih Ping, 21, two Burmese migrants, died in the Malaysia ’s Juru Immigration Detention Centre from Leptospirosis in May 2009. 127 civil society groups and organizations responded vide a joint statement entitled ‘Death Of 2 Burmese Indicative Of State Of Detention Places In Malaysia – Denial Of Healthcare Is A Violation Of Right To Life’.
Complaints were also lodged with the Malaysia’s Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM), Malaysian Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak,, Minister of Home Affairs Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein, and the Minister of Health Dato’ Sri Liow Tiong Lai,
After that Leptospirosis outbreak in the Juru Detention Centre in Penang in May, the Immigration Director-General Abdul Rahman assured us that the cleanliness and hygiene at immigration depots nationwide will be stepped-up to ensure safety of staff and inmates there against contracting infectious diseases (Bernama, 19/5/2009).
SUHAKAM also vide letter dated 16/7/2009 had informed us that they had met with the Director General of Immigration on 4/6/2009, and amongst others, had recommended that ‘… as a measure to control contagious diseases to ensure that all immigration detention centres should have a doctor or medical officer in line with international requirements, and that cleanliness of detention centres should be taken care of.’
It must also be borne in mind that last year SUHAKAM identified medical care as an overriding reason why 1,300 detainees have died over the past six years, and had made recommendations to the government. At present the 22 centres throughout Malaysia do not have a permanent clinical dispensary manned by doctors or a medical assistant to help detainees. (ABC News, 28/5/2009)
In May 2009, it was reported that about 26 were admitted to hospital following a Leptospirosis outbreak in the Juru Detention Centre, and they survived, and this leads us to believe that prompt access to healthcare can avoid death. It is shocking that in this recent case, 6 have died. What is more disturbing is that there seem to have been no reported disclosure by the Malaysian authorities on this. We still do not know the number of detainees that have been affected this time.
This is a disease caused by exposure to water contaminated with the urine of infected animals, and is very rarely propagated through contact with affected persons. Question must be raised as to how detainees in an enclosed detention centre are contracting this disease. Are they being affected through the food and water supplied by the detention centres? Are the detention centres having a rat infestation problem?
After the recent deaths and outbreak in the Juru Detention Centre, one would have expected the Malaysian government to have taken immediate steps to ensure that there are no more cases of Leptospirosis outbreak and deaths. We wonder also whether the authorities took a lackadaisical attitude, and did not even conduct a thorough investigation to determine the source of the contamination that caused that outbreak. Results of such investigations will not only determine liability, but would also ensure that further deaths from Leptospirosis could be avoided.
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. It was sad that SUHAKAM decided not to carry out a public inquiry after the Juru deaths in May.
We are also call upon the Ministry of Health and the government of Malaysia to conduct a thorough investigation into the cause of this Leptospirosis outbreak, which is reported to have already resulted in 6 deaths.
We also call for the resignation of Immigration Director-General Abdul Rahman, considering that this is second reported case of deaths by reason of Leptospirosis at Immigration Detention Centres within the last 4 months.
The Malaysian government must take necessary action to ensure that proper steps be taken so that such disregard for life does not happen again.
With regard to those who have died, 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, which unfortunately only promotes culture of impunity with no sense of responsibility and respect for human life.
For and on behalf of the 23 organizations/groups listed below:-
Asian Migrant Centre (AMC)
Burma Campaign, Malaysia
Clean Clothes Campaign -International Secretariat
Coordination of Action Research on AIDS & Mobility (CARAM – Asia)
FIDH – International Federation for Human Rights
Khmer Kampuchea Krom Human Rights Organizatio (Cambodia)
Legal Support for Children and Women (LSCW) Cambodia
MADPET (Malaysians against Death Penalty and Torture)
MAP Foundation, Thailand
Mekong Migration Network (MMN)
Mekong Ecumenical Partnership Program-MEPP
Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA)
National League for Democracy [NLD (LA)], Malaysia
Network of Action for Migrants in Malaysia (NAMM)
Nepal Institute of Development Studies (NIDS) Nepal
Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM)
Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor
Persatuan Masyarakat Malaysia & Wilayah Persekutuan (PERMAS)
The Shan Refugee Organization (SRO) Malaysia
Thai Action Committees for democracy in Burma (TACDB)
The Action Network for Migrants (ANM) Thailand
Workers Hub for Change (WH4C)