Bersih rallies in more than 50 cities abroad

Hundreds turned up at Bersih demonstrations in more than 50 cities around the world but the rally was a no-go in Singapore and Thailand, the organisers said.

This was as the Malaysian government has said it would take legal action against Malaysians participating in Bersih solidarity events abroad.

Newly appointed Deputy Foreign Minister Reezal Merican Naina Merican said his ministry would gather information on the participants and hand it over to the relevant authorities for action.

He added that the participants had tarnished the country's international image and should not be exempted from legal action.

"It is not that we do not have room for the people to express themselves. Malaysia is not a dictatorship," he was quoted as saying by national news wire Bernama yesterday. "I, too, sometimes, have critical views but I express them through the proper channel and abide by the law. Let's not damage the country and bring suffering to the people."

Datuk Seri Reezal continued to criticise the Bersih 4 rally, led by electoral reform group Bersih and slated to last the whole weekend, saying the organisers were not being fair to the traders and tourists.

The marches and main rally took place in parts of downtown Kuala Lumpur that are frequented by tourists.

He also called the demonstrators unpatriotic for choosing dates close to the Aug 31 Independence Day celebrations.

"Demonstrations in some countries can result in harsh penalties. Freedom of speech must not be seen as absolute freedom to say anything by any way. Are we going to legalise everything in the name of freedom of speech or human rights?"

Yesterday, solidarity events in support of the Kuala Lumpur protests began worldwide but the Singapore police issued a warning that any assembly without a police permit was illegal and was an offence under the Public Order Act.

A planned Bersih gathering in Bangkok was cancelled after the organisers were advised by the Thai police and military to do so. "We were visited by the Thai police and army (they knew this in advance and we don't know how), we were told to cancel the event and we decided to do so. All the best to everyone, Bangkok Malaysians," read a posting on the Bersih Global Facebook page.

"Please send your love to our city coordinators in Bangkok who tried to organise a peaceful gathering there despite the circumstances. We want our Malaysians to be safe, first and foremost."

Despite a warning by the Malaysian Ambassador to China that any gathering without permission of the Chinese government was deemed illegal, many photos were shared on Twitter of Malaysians holding solidarity events in Suzhou city in coastal Jiangsu province and Hong Kong.

Rallies in major cities in Australia and New Zealand also went ahead without any problems.

This article was first published on August 30, 2015.
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