Malaysia investigates disappearance of Burmese democracy activist and her family

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysian police said on Tuesday they had opened an investigation into the disappearance this month of a Burmese democracy activist and her family who held UN refugee cards.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said this week that Thuzar Maung, 46, her husband and three children, feared they had been abducted “in a planned operation” on July 4, citing witnesses and CCTV footage at the activist’s home in the Malaysian state of Selangor.

“The Malaysian government should take urgent action to locate the family and ensure their safety,” HRW Asia director Elaine Pearson said in a statement on Monday.

Police have opened a missing persons investigation after receiving a report of the family’s disappearance, Selangor Police Chief Hussein Omar Khan told Reuters.

He gave no further details, but said the inquiry would “investigate any element of crime, including kidnappings”.

Malaysia has openly criticized violence in Myanmar after the military overthrew a democratically elected government in February 2021. But it has also been criticized by rights groups for deporting thousands of Myanmar nationals, including military defectors.

Thuzar Maung, who fled Myanmar for Malaysia in 2015 to escape growing violence against Muslims, may have been targeted for her support of Myanmar’s pro-democracy movement, HRW said. He did not identify who might have been responsible.

Thuzar Maung leads Myanmar’s Muslim refugee community and has more than 93,000 followers on her Facebook page, where she frequently posts criticism of alleged abuses by Myanmar’s junta.

The Myanmar Embassy in Kuala Lumpur did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

CCTV footage showed a car driving into the gated community where his family lived on July 4, HRW said. The driver told security guards it was the police, but authorities later identified the car’s license plate as fake, according to HRW.

About two hours later, a friend speaking with Thuzar Maung on the phone overheard her telling her husband that strangers were entering her home, HRW said.

The same car and two cars belonging to the family were seen leaving the compound shortly afterwards. Thuzar Maung and his family members’ phones were also turned off, he added.

(Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Lincoln Feast)

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