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Human Rights Watch calls for urgent investigation into Myanmar activist’s abduction in Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA — Human Rights Watch has called on the Malaysian government to urgently prioritize a thorough and transparent investigation into the abduction of Myanmar refugee activist Thuzar Maung, 46, and her family.

The family was reportedly abducted by unidentified men from their residence in Ampang Jaya, Kuala Lumpur, on 4 July.

The victims included Thuzar’s husband, Saw Than Tin Win, 43, and their three children – daughter, Poeh Khing Maung, 16, and sons Aung Myint Maung, 21, and Thukha Maung, 17.

The incident, as per witnesses and CCTV footage, appeared to be a well-planned operation.

Thuzar Maung, also spelled Thu Zar Moung, is an outspoken advocate of Myanmar’s pro-democracy movement, who fled to Malaysia in 2015 to escape escalating violence against Muslims in Myanmar. All five members of her family are recognized as refugees by the United Nations Refugee Agency in Malaysia.

“We fear that Thuzar Maung and her family were abducted in a planned operation and are at grave risk,” said Elaine Pearson, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The Malaysian government should urgently act to locate the family and ensure their safety.”

According to the details available, at around 4:30 p.m. on July 4, a car entered the family’s gated community, with the driver claiming to be a police officer.

Two hours later, during a call with a friend, Thuzar Maung screamed that unknown men were intruding into their house, before the call was abruptly cut off. By 7.10 p.m., the same car, along with two family cars, was seen exiting the compound. All family members’ phones were switched off immediately after the incident and remain inaccessible.

CCTV footage revealed a black-gloved hand holding out the gate card to exit the compound and the license plate of the supposed “police” car, which Malaysian police have identified as fake.

Vehicle logs indicate the same car had been seen entering the gated community on 19 June. A subsequent examination of the house by Thuzar Maung’s colleagues on 5 July revealed no signs of robbery, leading to the conclusion that the abduction was targeted and premeditated.

Thuzar Maung serves as chair of the Myanmar Muslim Refugee Community and the Myanmar Migrant Workers Committee, and works closely with Myanmar’s opposition National Unity Government. She is an active critic of Myanmar’s junta regime on Facebook, where she has over 93,000 followers. This activism is thought to be the primary cause of her abduction.

“Foreign governments should press Malaysian authorities to quickly uncover the location of this family,” Pearson urged. “Myanmar activists are apparently at risk even when they criticize the military junta from a country where they have sought asylum.”

Kuala Lumpur police have since launched an investigation into the case.

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