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Malaysian activist charged after claiming officials abused migrants

Malaysian activist Heidy Quah was charged in court on Tuesday over her allegations that police and officials mistreated migrants.

Quah, 27, pleaded not guilty to “improper use of network facilities’’ over a Facebook post last year.

In the post, Quah shared the experience of a woman who said she was put in a migrant detention centre shortly after given birth.

Quah, the founder of the organisation Refuge for the Refugees, said when she visited the centre she found the woman “cuffed to the table while talking to me through a plastic wall with holes in it’’.

Officials should “investigate allegations, not whistleblowers,’’ Quah said.

“As daily positive cases of Coronavirus hit an all-time high, it is unfortunate and frustrating that the government’s energy and resources are spent on investigating me,’’ she added.

In the weeks before Quah’s June 2020 post, police rounded up thousands of migrants as part of measures they said were aimed at curbing the spread of Coronavirus.

Journalists from Al Jazeera and the South China Morning Post were subsequently questioned by police over their reporting of the arrests.

Malaysia’s economy was the third-wealthiest per capita in South-East Asia.

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Factories producing medical equipment and electronics, as well as vast rubber and palm oil plantations, all lean heavily on migrant labour from neighbours such as Indonesia and Myanmar.

Sectors that rely on migrants have for years been accused of abuses, with the U.S. recently banning shipments from Top Glove, the world’s biggest manufacturer of rubber and medical gloves, over forced labour allegations.

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