KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Ethnic violence in Myanmar between Muslims and Buddhists appears to have spilled over into Malaysia, police said on Wednesday, with four killings in recent days suspected to be linked to the religious tension.
All the victims, including a man slashed to death by machete-wielding attackers at a car wash in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, this week, were Buddhists from Myanmar, said the city’s deputy police chief Amar Singh Ishar Singh.
“We have a feedback that this may be Myanmar Buddhists and Muslims having a spillover here in Kuala Lumpur,” he told Reuters. “In Myanmar, the Muslims are the victims, over here the Buddhists are the victims.”
Singh said the police had set up a special task force to deal with the violence in Kuala Lumpur and had arrested about 60 Myanmar immigrants this week in an attempt to control tensions.
Malaysia’s Bernama state news agency said the 20-year-old victim was sleeping at the car wash when he was attacked by 10 people. It quoted police as saying a man and a woman also suffered injuries in the attack.
Police did not give details of the other attacks.
Anti-Muslim violence in Buddhist-dominated Myanmar erupted in western Rakhine State last year and has spread into the central heartlands and areas near the old capital, Yangon, this year.
Thousands of Rohingya Muslims have fled from the country to escape the violence and worsening living conditions, many of them making their way by boat or overland to Muslim-majority Malaysia. Malaysia’s has allowed them to stay but without giving them legal status, meaning that most struggle to find work or access to hospitals and schools.
The total number of Myanmar immigrants in Malaysia is estimated at about 400,000. The U.N. refugee agency says about 23,000 Rohingyas are registered as refugees in Malaysia, but groups representing them say the real number of Muslim immigrants is much higher and has surged this year because of the violence.
In April, Muslim and Buddhist refugees from Myanmar clashed at a refugee camp in Indonesia in a riot in which eight people were killed and 15 were wounded, media reported.
Reporting by Stuart Grudgings; Editing by Robert Birsel