Activists gather in Bangkok to support Bersih

[Note: The following article originally appeared in Free Malaysia Today.]

BANGKOK: A small group of people, largely made up of Malaysians, gathered outside the Malaysian embassy here yesterday to call for electoral reforms in Malaysia.

The protest was held to coincide with the Bersih 2.0 rally which took place in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

The group of about 20 people was led by Yap Swee Seng who is the executive director of Bangkok-based Asian Forum for Human Rights & Democracy. The gathering started at 2pm Malaysian time yesterday.

In a letter submitted to the Malaysian ambassador Nazirah Hussain, Yap said the group had gathered to express their solidarity support for the struggle of their Malaysian friends for human rights and democracy in Malaysia.

Yap incidentally was one of the 91 people barred by the Malaysian police from attending the gathering in KL.

“As a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, your government should respect and protect the right to freedom of expression and freedom of assemble as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Federal Constitution of Malaysia.

“Instead, your government has shamelessly and arbitrarily arrested people and raided the Bersih office in an attempt to stop the rally,” Yap read from the letter addressed to the ambassador.

He also expressed concern about the physical and mental status of the six PSM leaders who have been detained detained without trial under the Emergency (Public Order and Crime Prevention) Ordinance since July 2, 2011.

These detainees are Sungai Siput MP Dr Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj, M Sarasvathy, Letchumanan Aseer Patham, Choo Chon Kai, Sukumaran Munisamy and Sarat Babu Raman.

Yap also called upon the Malaysian government to, among others, abolish the Emergency Ordinance as recommended by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

He also urged the government to drop all charges against the organizers of the Bersih rally.

The Bersih rally held in Kuala Lumpur saw about 15,000 people gathering despite a total lockdown of the capital city by the police.

More than 1,600 people were arrested for taking part in the rally. Among those arrested were Bersih 2.0 chairperson S Ambiga and a list of Pakatan Rakyat leaders.

Similar rallies were also held in major cities across the globe, including in Australia, the US, the UK and other Asean nations.

This article is submitted while the journalist is on the SEAPA Journalism Fellowship 2011.