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Thousands of Malaysian Indians Protest Discrimination


Malaysian police broke up a protest against discrimination by 10,000 ethnic Indians. As VOA's Heda Bayron reports from our Asia News Center in Hong Kong, this is the latest protest to fray Malaysia's tightly controlled and racially divided society.

Despite roadblocks and police warnings that the protest was illegal, thousands of Malaysian Indians gathered Sunday in the capital, Kuala Lumpur.

They wanted to march to the British embassy, blaming Britain for what they call discrimination against ethnic Indians in Malaysia.

Instead like slaves in this country. We [were] born here, our children born here. What is going on in this country?"" said a protester, who says the situation has persisted under the current Malay-dominated Malaysian government.

Race is a sensitive issue in Malaysia. Under Malaysia's Constitution, ethnic Malays receive preference over other ethnic groups in business, education and jobs in the civil service.

Indians comprise the third largest ethnic group in Malaysia.

Sunday's protest is not only stoking racial tensions in Malaysia, but also testing the government of Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi.

On Sunday, an ethnic Indian Malaysian minister, Samy Vellu, denounced the protest as a "ploy to smear the government's name".

Earlier this month, thousands rallied in Kuala Lumpur to demand electoral reforms.

On Friday, activists from the Hindu Rights Action Force, which organized Sunday's protest, were arrested for sedition.

Although in principle Malaysians are allowed freedom of expression, assemblies of more than five people need a permit, which is hard to get.

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