Malaysia urged to explain deportation of Myanmar detainees despite court order

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: An immigration truck carrying Myanmar migrants to be deported from Malaysia is seen in Lumut

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Several lawmakers and rights groups on Wednesday called on Malaysia's government to explain its deportation of more than 1,000 Myanmar nationals, despite a court-ordered stay, with some saying the move could amount to contempt of court.

The Kuala Lumpur High Court on Tuesday had granted a stay on the deportation of 1,200 Myanmar citizens held in immigration detention centres, pending an application by Amnesty International and Asylum Access to suspend the plan amid fears over their safety.

But hours after the ruling, Malaysia's top immigration official said authorities had repatriated 1,086 Myanmar citizens on three Myanmar navy ships.

"We believe that the government owes an explanation to the people of Malaysia as to why they chose to defy the court order," Amnesty's Malaysia director Katrina Maliamauv told reporters.

The prime minister's office and Immigration Department Director-General Khairul Dzaimee Daud did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The court on Wednesday fixed March 9 to rule on whether the groups would be allowed to challenge the deportation, said New Sin Yew, a lawyer for the rights groups.

It also extended the stay order barring the remaining 114 detainees from being deported before the next hearing.

In a separate statement, four opposition lawmakers questioned whether the deportation amounted to contempt of court and told authorities to provide more details of those deported.

Khairul had said those repatriated did not include Rohingya refugees or asylum-seekers.

But concerns over the deportation of unregistered asylum-seekers have persisted, as the U.N. refugee agency has not been allowed to interview detainees for more than a year to verify their status.

The rights groups in their court filing said three U.N.-registered people and 17 minors with at least one parent in Malaysia were on the deportee list. It was unclear if those were sent back.

Malaysia is home to more than 154,000 asylum-seekers from Myanmar, where the military seized power this month.

(Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Martin Petty)