Saturday, May 15, 2010

Malaysia Becoming Foreign Criminals' Hideout

Malaysia's geographical location, along with its promising economic climate, political stability, freedom from any threat and riot, and attractive tourist destinations have drawn many foreigners' interest to visit this country for various purposes.

Unfortunately, all these uniqueness have also attracted foreigners here to seek an easy life; worse yet, foreign criminals have fled themselves to this country to escape from the pursue of the authorities of their own countries.

Effort of Preserving Harmony
Although these foreign criminals only make Malaysia as a hiding place and do not intend to set up their operation headquarters here to plot their illegal activities; even though cases like this are considered isolated cases, it should not be overlooked in the effort of preserving harmony, prosperity, security and public order in this country for the future.

It was right for the Defense Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, to make the revelation that Malaysia has now become a popular hiding location for foreign criminals. That was an early move to prevent the issue from becoming more thorny and serious.

In December 2009, the police successfully captured three men of Thai nationality, believed to be the members of the separatist groups in southern Thailand, and found a number of homemade bombs in an old house in Kampung Gebeng, Pasir Mas, Kelantan. The incident was one of the early alerts to the Malaysian authorities in relation to the threat of foreign criminals hiding in Malaysia.

US Report on Human Trafficking
We have also heard some unpleasant stories about the other countries' perception of Malaysia, such as the US Report on Human Trafficking 2009, which named Malaysia as one of the 17 countries with bad records of human trafficking activities, besides being a transit for drug trafficking syndicates.

We do not want to be persistently labeled as a hiding place for foreign criminals. It is not impossible for foreign criminals to flee into this country as they can slip through our many main entrances by sea, land and air.

Malaysia is surrounded by sea with the waters covering an area of 614 sq km, with a coastline of 4,492 km under maritime zone. This attribute also gives those foreign criminals a chance to easily flee into Malaysia if an organized monitor and control system is not in place.

This view was echoed by Dr Ravichandran Moorthy, senior lecturer of Strategic Studies and International Relations Program, School of History, Politics and Strategy, Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanity, National University of Malaysia (UKM). He said, Malaysia has to take an initiative to boost up the confidence of the international community in the country's capability to eradicate regional violence, including the issue of becoming a hiding place for foreign criminals.

He said, the image of Malaysia had deteriorated in the eyes of the world when it was implicated as a transit of human trafficking and drug trafficking to other countries. Worse yet, Malaysia was further burdened with the need to handle the issues of illegal migrants, and abuse of visa by tourists and foreign students involving in illegal activities and crimes.

No doubt, at present, the issue of foreign criminals hiding in this country is still under control, but we must not adopt a half-hearted attitude. On the contrary, due attention must be paid to ensure the people's safety and public order in the future.

The enforcers -- the Maritime Enforcement Agency, the Marine Fisheries Department, the Customs Department, the Immigration Department and the Royal Malaysian Police -- should step up their concerted efforts to guard the entrances of the country from being penetrated by certain quarters.

Identifying Criminals
The existing deterrence operations to detect foreign criminals and outlaw elements can be done more effectively by collecting detailed information to facilitate the work.

At the same time, Dr. Ravichandran said, the Coast Guard of Coastal Countries participated by countries in this region was an advantage to benefit the work of identifying and gathering information about foreigners entering and leaving this country.

Information can be shared among countries to facilitate the work of identifying criminals wanted in a certain country. He believed foreigners, criminals especially, were always looking for opportunities to enter into Malaysia in whatever possible way.

Maybe it is rather difficult to distinguish whether they are wanted criminals or not as they are crafty in confusing the enforcers, for example, by using fabricated documents or visa.

Moreover, some foreign citizens from several countries such as Indonesia, India and Middle East, have similar look with Malaysians. Therefore, when they mingle with local people, chances are, there may not be any suspicion. Before this, some members of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) entered into Malaysia to seek refuge to escape from separatist group in Indonesia.

Basically, Malaysia can play a role in providing asylum to foreign citizens seeking refuge and sympathy, as long as it does not jeopardize fundamental human rights or have any relation with crimes.

Strengthening National Security
To strengthen our national security to prevent penetration of certain quarters, Malaysia and countries in this region need to step up their cooperation to identify foreign criminals who make this country their hideout.

At present, countries concerned have had strategic cooperation and sharing in guarding the country borders from pirate activities in Malacca Straits, South China Sea and the waters of Sabah and Sarawak.

What we can be certain is, there is also a need to enhance Malaysia's capacity in preserving security and public order in the country by preparing sophisticated and high-technology assets such as multi-role aircraft and submarine to equip ourselves to handle any form of threat.

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