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Myanmar refugees taking over markets

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PREVALENT IN KLANG VALLEY: Their refugee status does not allow them to conduct business

IPOH: THE Federation of Vegetable Wholesalers Associations of Malaysia wants  the Home Ministry,  police and Immigration to be strict in dealing with Myanmar refugees.

Despite their refugee status, the foreigners have taken over several markets in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur and selling vegetables, it claims.

Treasurer Chong Tek Keong said some of them had also hired fellow refugees as workers.

He said hundreds, if not thousands, of Myanmar nationals with refugee cards issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees were trading vegetables at all wholesale markets in the Klang Valley.

These illegal traders, he said, could be found at wholesale markets in Jalan Chow Kit, Jalan Pudu, Selayang, Puchong and Klang.

He added that the problem was prevalent only in the Klang Valley and not in other states.

The federation's call for the authorities to clamp down on the illegal traders was one of the issues raised during its annual general meeting (AGM) here.

"Their businesses are affecting our members'.

"Over the years, our profits have suffered by 30 per cent because these refugees are obtaining their supply directly from vegetable farms, including those in Cameron Highlands.

"They have formed a good connection with vegetable farmers," he said after the AGM.

Chong, who is also president of the Kuala Lumpur Vegetable Wholesalers Association, said enforcement needed to be carried out irrespective of UNHCR intervention.

He complained about UNHCR's repeated defence of refugees, who were caught abusing their refugee status by conducting illegal businesses. He said every time police and Immigration arrested them, it would step in to get them released.

This intervention, he said might have emboldened the refugees to carry out their business at wholesale markets, adding that UNHCR should provide them placements in other countries.

He said some of the Myanmar refugees, who total about 9,000, according to UNHCR data, had refused to leave Malaysia after establishing themselves in the country.

"Some of these refugees are doing so well that they have become bosses and hired fellow refugees as workers. When the UNHCR found them placements in foreign countries, they refused to leave Malaysia.

"By right, they cannot conduct businesses with their refugee status. That is what the federation was told by the Home Ministry. They are allowed to do only odd jobs.

"We hope police and Immigration will be stricter in enforcing the law against them.

"We hope the UNHCR will stop issuing refugee status.

"From a few hundreds in the past, there are 9,000 now. Does the refugee agency want to increase the number to 15,000? We are already facing social problems created by them."

Chong said the federation had last week sent a letter to UNHCR requesting to meet the agency to discuss the problem of vegetable trading being carried out by Myanmar refugees in Klang Valley. However, it had not received a response.

Myanmar nationals selling vegetables at the Selayang wet market in Kuala Lumpur.


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