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Malaysia: Myanmar Refugee Activist Abducted

July 17th, 2023  •  Author:   Human Rights Watch  •  3 minute read
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Urgently Locate, Ensure Safety of Thuzar Maung, Family Members

(Bangkok) – The Malaysian government should immediately prioritize a thorough and transparent investigation into the abduction of the Myanmar refugee activist Thuzar Maung and her family, Human Rights Watch said today.

On July 4, 2023, unidentified men abducted Thuzar Maung, 46; her husband, Saw Than Tin Win, 43; her daughter, Poeh Khing Maung, 16; and sons Aung Myint Maung, 21, and Thukha Maung, 17, from their residence in Ampang Jaya, Kuala Lumpur, based on reports from witnesses and CCTV footage. Thuzar Maung, also spelled Thu Zar Moung, is an outspoken supporter of Myanmar’s pro-democracy movement.

“We fear that Thuzar Maung and her family were abducted in a planned operation and are at grave risk,” said Elaine Pearson, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The Malaysian government should urgently act to locate the family and ensure their safety.”

At about 4:30 p.m. on July 4, a car entered the gated community where the family lives. The driver told the security guards they were police. Two hours later, Thuzar Maung was on the phone with a friend, who heard her yell to her husband that unknown men were entering the house, before being disconnected. At about 7:10 p.m., the same car and the two cars owned by Thuzar Maung’s family were seen leaving the compound. Thuzar Maung’s phone and the phones of her husband and children appear to have been immediately turned off, as no calls have gone through since.

CCTV footage at the guard booth captured the license plate of the “police” car, which Malaysian police have since identified as fake. The footage also captured a black-gloved hand of the driver of one of Thuzar Maung’s cars holding out the gate card to exit the compound. Vehicle logs show that the same car had entered the gated community on June 19. Thuzar Maung’s colleagues who entered the house on July 5 said there were no signs of robbery.

Thuzar Maung is a long-time advocate for democracy in Myanmar and refugee and migrant rights in Malaysia. She serves as chair of the Myanmar Muslim Refugee Community and Myanmar Migrant Workers Committee and has worked closely with Myanmar’s opposition National Unity Government. She has over 93,000 followers on Facebook, where she posts criticism of abuses by Myanmar’s junta, which took power after a February 1, 2021 military coup. Her friends and colleagues expressed concern that she was targeted for her activism. The police in Kuala Lumpur have opened an investigation into the case.

Thuzar Maung fled Myanmar for Malaysia in 2015 to escape growing violence against Muslims. All five family members are recognized by the United Nations Refugee Agency as refugees in Malaysia.

“Foreign governments should press Malaysian authorities to quickly uncover the location of this family,” Pearson said. “Myanmar activists are apparently at risk even when they criticize the military junta from a country where they have sought asylum.”

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