KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 13 — The erosion of human rights in Malaysia for the past year has put the country in the same boat as Myanmar, lawyer Eric Paulsen alleged today.
The Lawyers For Liberty (LFL) executive director reasoned that if the government continues to silence dissenters through various laws, the situation here would worsen like in Myanmar, where citizens can be incarcerated for social media postings.
“It is sad but I’m constantly thinking of Myanmar. I have no doubt that the way Malaysia is going down the road, we would be mentioned next to Myanmar.
“Someone in Myanmar was recently charged for Facebook comments and was jailed. We can see a trend here that if Myanmar does this, we also do something similar. It is vice versa,” he told reporters at the launch of this year’s Human Rights Watch (HRW) report.
The report this year highlighted worsening freedom of speech in Malaysia, due to the excessive use of laws by the government to silence critics on social media.
Paulsen meanwhile said that the local authorities practise double standards in charging anyone who is seen as a threat to them.
“What you have in Malaysia is a culture where state institutions have no accountability. They can say and do whatever they want and they can exaggerate.
“Double standards and selective persecution, that’s the order of the day,” he explained.
HRW deputy Asia director Phil Robertson claimed that other than Thailand and the Philippines, Malaysia was among the worst in Asean for human rights, which prompted a second report.
“Malaysia is in the forefront of Asean countries that have a human rights problem.
“It is not common for us to do sequels for our reports, but we thought we had to when so little was done to respond to the human rights abuses in the previous report,” he explained.
PKR’s Chua Tian Chang said if more laws are amended to prevent Malaysians from speaking out, the space for freedom of expression would not exist anymore.
“Passing of the law a lot of times goes unnoticed. Political parties and NGOs make noise but it will get through.
“The authorities hope that after it is passed, it will reshape how people interact with social media. It will be too late,” the Batu MP said.
Chua added that Malaysians would not choose to retaliate after as they would be afraid of the consequences, including having their social media accounts removed or suspended.
“There will be a general compromise because people don’t want them to close the [sic] Facebook or websites,” he said.