24 Sep 2003

Malaysia arrests 66 foreign workers after clashes

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 24 (Reuters) - Malaysian police have arrested 66 people from Bangladesh, Indonesia, Nepal and Vietnam after fighting among rival immigrant workers, officials said on Wednesday.
It was the third major brawl in two years involving foreign workers.
At least six people were injured in the clashes late on Monday and early on Tuesday at two textile factories in Negeri Sembilan state, a police official said.
Witnesses said a fight in Nilai town erupted as Vietnamese workers pelted Indonesians with stones and bottles. The reason for the conflict was not immediately clear.
In the other incident, a clash broke out in Senawang town after an argument between workers from Nepal and Bangladesh.
Malaysia saw an influx of foreign workers, particularly for low-paid jobs, during the 1990s when its economy boomed. There are now about two million foreign workers in Malaysia -- or about 20 percent of its workforce.
But there has been slower growth in recent years and authorities have been cracking down on illegal workers who have been blamed for rising crime.
The factory in Nilai was the scene of a disturbance in January 2002, when about 450 Indonesian workers, some waving their national flag, attacked policemen and overturned vehicles.
In May, about 50 people were arrested after a clash between gangs of Indonesian workers in a town north of Kuala Lumpur.
The government deported more than 300,000 foreigners, most of them Indonesians and Filipinos, last year, briefly straining ties with those countries.