Malaysians have nothing to fear from us, say foreign workers

Indonesian foreign workers relaxing near the Jalan Silang bus station in Kuala Lumpur.

SELAYANG - Many foreign workers here say Malaysians have nothing to fear from them, adding that any violence or trouble within their communities would not spill over to affect the local population.

A Myanmar daun sireh seller, who wanted to be known only as Ahmed, 43, said foreigners clashed with each other over jobs, which were hard to come by.

"Sometimes you have to take an off day at work because you're sick, and because of that the boss will fill your position with someone else.

"This leads to a fight over the job," he said at his stall here.

He said some Malaysian employers did not care who worked at their businesses and that positions were filled whenever there was a vacancy.

Myanmar vegetable seller Harun Syah, 32, said foreign workers chose not to confront their bosses, even if they got replaced at work.

"It could be the boss' fault."

Both Ahmed and Harun were shocked to hear of the Dec 8 riot in Singapore and wondered how the foreign workers there could run amok and even attack the police.

More than 400 South Asian nationals rioted for about two hours in the republic's Little India district, battling police and torching several vehicles.

The Star reported yesterday that Malaysian police and the Immigration Department were on the alert following the riot, and that Home Ministry agencies were monitoring areas nationwide where foreign workers congregated.

The foreign workers interviewed here said they could not understand how their counterparts in Singapore could riot.

"Life is better here than in our own country. It's not great but we can live," Harun said. "Why would people do something like that?"

A Malaysian saleswoman, identified only as Putri, 36, said the foreign workers, who lived near her home, never gave her family any problems.

"Sometimes, they even help us," she added.

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Little India Riot