Photograph by Simon Wheatley. NO REFUGE: BURMESE REFUGEES IN MALAYSIA
Photography Exhibition Featuring photos by Greg Constantine, Halim Berbar, Rahman Roslan, Simon Wheatley & Zhuang Wubin
Thu 15 to Sun 25 Oct Sun to Thu, 11am to 8pm Fri & Sat, 11am to 9.30pm
Presented By SUARAM and The Annexe Gallery
You are cordially invited to NO REFUGE: BURMESE REFUGEES IN MALAYSIA Exhibition Opening Thu 15 Oct, 8pm Officiated YB Charles Santiago, MP for Klang Featuring performances TBA
Photograph by Halim Berbar. A makeshift church that was burnt down during a RELA raid of a refugee camp. Burmese refugees were worshipping in the church when it was set on fire.
When one complains about human rights abuses in Malaysia, many Malaysians like to claim that at least we are better off than Burma. That is however not true for Burmese refugees in Malaysia. They may have escaped the horrors of living under the military rule of the junta in Burma, but here in Malaysia they live a life of fear all over again. As Malaysia is not a signatory of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, Burmese refugees do not have rights in this country. Because of this, they are subject to all sorts of abuses, both by the authorities and fellow Malaysians.
Forced to hide in crammed apartments or makeshift encampments in forests, refugees live in constant fear of being detained by the Malaysian police, immigration officers and RELA volunteers. When caught, they are often abused, extorted for money, or sent to overcrowded and unhygienic detention centres. Sometimes they are even sold to human traffickers as slave labour or prostitutes. As the deplorable situation of Burmese refugees in Malaysia gains international attention, it’s high time for us to examine the human suffering we are causing.
NO REFUGE, presented by SUARAM and The Annexe Gallery, aims to highlight the plight of Burmese refugees through the works of five photographers: Greg Constantine (USA), Halim Berbar (France), Rahman Roslan (Malaysia), Simon Wheatley (UK), and Zhuang Wubin (Singapore). The works are photojournalistic documents of the living conditions of a people who are forced to flee to our hospitable country, but have yet to find refuge or hope here.
The exhibition will also mark the launch of a petition to the Malaysian Government to recognise refugees and to sign the 1951 UN Convention Relation to the Status of Refugees.
Parts of the proceeds of the sale of the photographs will be channeled to SUARAM's campaign to advocate for the rights of Burmese refugees.
Photograph by Zhuang Wubin. Children from the Matu community play with their toys or have lunch in this low-cost apartment shared by around 30 Chin refugees. As Malaysia is not a signatory of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, the children have no access to education, except for informal classes organized by NGOs or the various Chin groups.
ALARMING FACTS ABOUT BURMESE REFUGEES IN MALAYSIA
Burmese refugees and asylum seekers started running to Malaysia more than 20 years ago and the number has increased since then. Currently, there are more than 60,000 Burmese refugees registered with UNHCR but thousands more are unregistered.
Between 2002 to 2008, more than 4,800 Burmese were whipped for immigration offences.
In 2008, 812 Burmese children were detained in immigration detention centres.
In May 2009, two Burmese asylum seekers died at the Juru detention centre due to Leptospirosis, a disease linked to contamination of food or water. In August/September 2009, another six Burmese died due to suspected Leptospirosis.
In Malaysia, many refugees live in poverty. They have difficulties finding jobs due to their illegal status. Even when they can find jobs, they are usually underpaid and vulnerable to abuse from unscrupulous employers.
Refugee children do not have access to public schools. As such, generations of uneducated refugees are being raised here in Malaysia.
As refugees remain unrecognized by the Malaysian Government, they live in constant fear of raids, arrest and detention. Conditions in detention centres face continuous problems of overcrowding, unhygienic conditions, malnourishment and ill-treatment of detainees. Once detained, they never know when they will be released. Many have died in detention centres.
They cannot go back to Burma for fear of their lives, and yet everyday they live in fear here.
Photograph by Rahman Roslan. A Rohingya vegetable trader pleads to local authority's personnel for mercy during a raid in a market in Kuala Lumpur
Thanks to Karen Zusman and Temme Lee for the facts and links.
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHERS
GREG CONSTANTINE Award winning photographer Greg Constantine was born in the United States and is currently based in Southeast Asia. In late 2005 Greg moved to Asia to begin work on his most recent project, Nowhere People, which documents the struggles of ethnic minority groups who have had their citizenship denied or stripped from them and are stateless. Work from Nowhere People has been exhibited internationally in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Bangkok, Tokyo and Geneva. Greg's photographs have been featured in publications including the New York Times, International Herald Tribune, The Economist, PDN Magazine, Stern, Irrawaddy Magazine, CNN and Al Jazeera. He has also collaborated with organisations including Medecins Sans Frontieres, UNHCR, Refugees International and the World Food Program.
HALIM BERBAR Halim Berbar is a French photojournalist and documentary filmmaker with 30 years of experience, covering historic events including the fall of the Berlin Wall, the release of Nelson Mandela, and Tiananmen Square. Halim Berbar was born in Paris where he studied photography and journalism before working with leading press and photo agencies in France. He has travelled intensively throughout Asia, Europe, Africa and South America. A prize-winning photographer, he has worked with leading international publishers and established corporate clients. He has been based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for the past 15 years and is now the Managing Director of HBL Network Press and a Senior Photojournalist (Asia Pacific correspondent) for SipaPress.
RAHMAN ROSLAN Rahman Roslan Kuala Lumpur-based photojournalist, focusing on news and documentary photography. His work has been published in E9 magazine, New York Times, International Herald Tribune, The National UAE, Sutra Magazine, The New Internationalist, Berita Harian Singapore, Strait Times Singapore, UNESCO Korea, several international magazines and newspapers. He has also freelanced for wire agencies such as AFP and Reuters in Kuala Lumpur and is currently working on the effects of urbanisation on communities in major cities in South East Asia.
SIMON WHEATLEY Though he was born in Singapore, Simon Wheatley spent his teenage and college years in the UK, and graduated from Manchester University in 1993 with a degree in American and Latin American Studies. He began to photograph seriously while living in Budapest in the mid-90s. In recent years he has focused on marginalized urban areas, with a particular interest in issues of youth and urban regeneration. He worked extensively in the volatile French suburbs and with the notoriously alienated Moroccan youth of Amsterdam, though his most renowned work is his reportage on London's inner-city youth. A book entitled 'Don't Call me Urban!' that looks deeply into this crisis-afflicated community in London will be published in 2010. Simon Wheatley worked for Magnum Photos between 2005 and 2008 and may return to the world of professional photography in the future, though currently he is engaged in the study of yoga, living in Calcutta.
ZHUANG WUBIN Born in Singapore, Zhuang Wubin uses photography to understand the complexity of the Chinese communities in Southeast Asia. He is also keen to document the region away from stereotypes. His photo-essays have been published on Asian Wall Street Journal, Post (HK), zonezero.com (Mexico/US) and Rhythms Monthly (Taiwan). His work has also been exhibited in Albania, Ireland, Indonesia, India and Bangladesh. Zhuang is also a researcher on contemporary Southeast Asian photography.
Photography by Greg Constantine. This 38-year-old woman fled from Burma and has been living in Malaysia for several years. She was arrested during a RELA raid in Kuala Lumpur in 2006. She spent months in Malaysian jails and detention centers. While incarcerated she became ill but was denied medical care. Eventually, she was taken to the Thai border and deported into the arms of human traffickers. After paying 1500 Malaysian Ringgit ($450 USD) to an agent in Thailand, she was smuggled back into Malaysia.
Photograph by Halim Berbar. Due to the ordeal of escaping Burma and living as a refugee in Malaysia, the man in this picture had fallen into a depression and had subsequently committed suicide.