GEORGE TOWN - Cases of foreign workers being murdered in Penang have escalated in the final quarter of this year and show no signs of abating.
From corpses wrapped in blankets to body parts disposed at several locations, the tally of the foreign workers killed now stands at 34, with the latest incident on Monday at the Metropolitan Park in Relau, where an unidentified person, believed to be a foreigner, was knifed to death.
About 20 of them have been identified as Myanmar nationals while the nationalities of the rest remain unknown.
Only a few corpses have been claimed by relatives while the rest, including the unidentified ones are kept at mortuaries.
So far, 11 mutilated body parts have been discovered – two human heads, two headless bodies, four legs, two hands and an arm.
Monday’s brutal murder came only a day after Penang police chief Senior Deputy Comm Datuk Wira Abdul Rahim Hanafi gave his assurance that the police had everything under control and urged Penangites to remain calm.
It was reported on Dec 6 that police had uncovered what was thought to be a slaughterhouse for some of the murders in Bukit Mertajam.
They have also arrested a total of 20 Myanmar nationals over the past two weeks during Ops Kelar.
Looking at the chronology of events, it seems as though the perpetrators are getting bolder and challenging the authorities.
The Star interviewed several Myanmar nationals, including Rohingyas, and most of them went pale when asked about the murders.
They would reply “Saya tak tahu” (I don’t know) or try to avoid answering the questions.
A Rohingya construction worker who had entered the country illegally, who wished to be known only as Abdul, said he was afraid of other Myanmar nationals in the state.
“Even if there are 10 of us (Rohingyas) and two of them, we will just turn and walk away. It’s better not to bump into them as they’re very violent people,” Abdul claimed.
Universiti Sains Malaysia criminologist Assoc Prof Dr P. Sundramoorthy said many would have expected the perpetrators to go cold with the media publicising the issue and the police pursuing the cases, but that did not seem to be the case.
“Serial killers are not limited to sociopaths, psychopaths or the mentally ill.
“The typical serial killers whom we think are sociopaths will sometimes go cold after committing several murders but in this case, we can see a trend of systematic serial killing.
“This is not a common social phenomenon. You are talking about a large number of immigrants being killed in a state in a period of one year.
“The bottom line is, it does not speak well for our country and the implication is bad. We need to resolve this.
“Penangites are also concerned about this trend.
“The offenders are so bold that they can come to a foreign land and kill their own countrymen,” he told The Star, adding that the modus operandi for most of the cases appeared to be the same.
On the motives of the murders, Dr Sundramoorthy said it would be incorrect to speculate on the spillover of ethnic and racial tension in Myanmar as it might be related to problems within a certain community or business-related issues here.
From a humanitarian perspective, he questioned whether the Myanmar embassy here facilitated the process of identification to send the deceased back to their country.
“What is going to happen to the corpses if they’re not claimed? What is the SOP (standard operating procedure) for unidentified foreigners?
“The deceased need to be given proper funeral rites,” he said.
Dr Sundramoorthy said even after the perpetrators were charged in court, the authorities need to aggressively tackle the issue of illegal immigrants living in the country.
The question many people are asking is whether we will ever find out who ordered the hits.