Gruesome Myanmar communal murders grip Penang

Secluded homes like this at Kampung Main Road in Prai where a large number of Myanmar nationals live have looked suspicious following the killing of 20 of their countrymen. — Picture by Malay Mail
Secluded homes like this at Kampung Main Road in Prai where a large number of Myanmar nationals live have looked suspicious following the killing of 20 of their countrymen. — Picture by Malay Mail

GEORGE TOWN, Sept 18 — Twenty people savagely murdered in Penang this year are believed to be victims of communal clashes between Muslims and Buddhists from Myanmar.

Police said the latest was the double-murder of two men in their 30s who had their throats slit and their bodies dumped in an oil palm plantation in Kampung Manggis in Bukit Mertajam on Monday.

Police are worried religious and ethnic tensions between the two groups in Myanmar have bubbled to surface in the state with deadly consequences. Most of the victims were Buddhists.

They have been unable to head off the violence due to communication problems with both
communities.

State deputy police chief Datuk A. Thaiveegan said a special task force has been set up by police to investigate the deaths.

“We are probing if religious disputes are involved,” he said.

The flashpoint of this violence is Seberang Prai where Rohingya Muslims from the western Rakhine state are the main suspects in the killings.

No one has been arrested in connection with the murders which began in January, although several weapons, mainly knives have been seized.

The reason for the killings are not immediately clear, with both groups blaming each other for the bitter tension.

Police sources said the victims, mostly factory workers, were brutally killed and were found with their throats slit.

A source said: “Six people were been killed in central Seberang Prai in three separate cases while the remains of two other victims were discovered in southern Seberang Prai in the last four months.

“The remaining cases were reported in northern Seberang Prai while several other cases have also been occurred on the island.”

The source said the victims, all men, aged between 20 and 40 were abducted from their homes and murdered elsewhere.

Most of the victims were found without documents and their remains were identified by colleagues and friends.

Police believe the assailants had targeted their victims through their workplace colleagues and had also obtained information on them from members of their community who have been here for years.

Investigations have shown further conflict is at risk and police have asked employers of the victims for leads.

On Monday, a plantation worker stumbled upon the bodies of the two men at about 8.50am. Apart from slit throats, they also suffered multiple stab wounds.

Police believe they were murdered at another place before their bodies were dumped at the plantation.

One of the victims was identified based on his travel document while the identity of the other is still unknown.

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