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Burmese Embassy in Malaysia Firebombed; 4 Arrested - 2004-04-07

Three men hurled firebombs at the Burmese embassy in Malaysia Wednesday, severely damaging the building. Police have arrested several suspects in the capital, Kuala Lumpur.

Officials say three men visited the Burmese embassy in Kuala Lumpur Wednesday morning asking for documents, but embassy guards turned the men away. Shortly after, they returned armed with weapons and firebombs, which they hurled inside, causing the fire that completely gutted the two-storey building. At least one diplomat was reported injured. Early reports say the suspects are members of a Burmese minority group and may have been refugees.

The motives for the attack are not clear, but Sunai Phasuk, from Human Rights Watch in Bangkok, says Burmese people living in Malaysia are frustrated.

"The general feeling of Burmese nationals - most of them are refugees and migrant workers - they feel that the embassy didn't represent their interests," he said. Tens of thousands of Burmese people live in Malaysia, one of Southeast Asia's richest countries, entering the country as migrant workers or asylum seekers.

Mr. Sunai says the Burmese embassy does not coordinate with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to help workers or refugees.

"[There has been]? almost nothing, in terms of cooperation between the Burmese embassy and the UNHCR in KL [Kuala Lumpur] ? anger and frustration among the asylum seekers and migrant workers? may be one of the possible factors behind the attack," he said.

The arson attack on the Burmese embassy is the second security breach on a diplomatic mission in eight days - although the attacks do not appear related. On March 30, an explosive device was thrown at Australia's High Commission in Kuala Lumpur causing minor damage and no injuries. So far, police have made no arrests in that incident.