Having run out of money and fearing execution, Shor Muluk planned his escape. He waited until nightfall then fled into the jungle, spending weeks walking without knowing where he was headed. Somehow, he reached Malaysia and was lucky enough to be taken in by a Rohingya family. He worked in construction until the leg injuries he sustained during his beatings in Thailand became too much to bear. “I don’t have enough money to pay for housing,” explains Shor. Now reliant on handouts from others, he says: “I sleep where I can … I survive as best I can.”
Rohingya Refugees in Malaysia
Shor Muluk is just one of 177,690 registered refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia, the vast majority of whom are from Myanmar. Some 97,750 are Rohingya refugees, making them the largest refugee group in the country. Rohingya have been coming to Malaysia to escape discrimination in their native Rakhine State since the 1990s, and with the camps in Bangladesh offering few prospects for the future, more continue to arrive. While the urban environment in Malaysia offers refugees and asylum seekers some anonymity, there are few safety nets. Just like many other countries in the region, Malaysia has not ratified the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, which means asylum seekers and refugees are effectively criminalised by domestic law. Refugees can register with the UNHCR, but they don’t receive much assistance, cannot legally work and face limited access to education, healthcare and other social services.