Many areas in Malaysia are ‘colonized’ by thousands of foreigners

KULIM: While some areas in Johor and Kelantan are now Rohingya ethnic colonies, the situation is not different in Kedah which is ‘colonized’ by more than 50,000 foreign workers consisting of Bangladeshi, Myanmar and Indonesian nationals, upsetting the local population.

The Paya Serdang and Labu Besar areas seem to have been dominated by foreign workers. The majority of them work in various industrial and construction sectors, particularly in the nearby Kulim Hi-Tech Park.

Although many of them are working legally, local residents are increasingly worried about the number of foreigners, creating the perception that Paya Serdang and Labu Besar are no longer in Malaysia.

The group of foreigners involved not only run grocery stores and restaurants, but also cultivate crops and some even raise animals by building open chicken coops like in their native places.

Yesterday, the media revealed that the number of Rohingya ethnic groups increased drastically in just a few years until they formed colonies in many locations throughout the country, including at least four villages controlled by them in two states, Johor and Kelantan.

In fact, the Rohingya ethnic group, the majority of whom entered this country from Rakhine, Myanmar as refugees or asylum seekers, are now taking over and controlling various affairs, including business activities that were previously carried out by local residents.

Although some still make a living as farmers, laborers or scrap metal collectors, many ethnic Rohingya are found to have their own businesses such as grocery stores, in addition to being suppliers of daily necessities or subcontractors.

Their presence in an area or village is also like a ‘magnet’ when it attracts other foreigners, including Bangladesh and Myanmar as seen in Kulim.

Foreigners who formed their own colonies throughout the country are believed to be illegal immigrants (PATI) living and hiding among legal workers in Lunas.

They started to open business premises using licenses belonging to local residents, and even organized a night market every Sunday with traders from the immigrant community in the area.

The resident, Shaiful Azim Sobriee, 39, said his residential area in Taman Lobak, was also ‘colonized’ by foreigners who turned the surrounding residence into a dormitory for the past three years.

“Every day the people of Bangladesh and Myanmar gather until late at night, some drink alcohol, this is very troubling. The shophouses in the front of the park are already full of them, compared to only a few empty shop lots being used as workers’ dormitories in the early stages.

“Because there are too many, there are also Bangladeshi workers building shared houses,” he said. There were also inspections carried out by the authorities, but for the past few years, such an operation has not been seen even though the residents have filed complaints.

The same thing was shared by a resident of Kampung Paya Serdang, Mohd Amiruddin Shafie, 45, who wondered how the number of foreign workers could become so large in such a short period of time.

“Kulim Hi-Tech has been open for many years, before there were foreign workers, but not as many as now. The Paya Serdang area was never used as a dormitory for foreigners, but all of a sudden, the area of the shop house became their place to live.

“Initially, there were not many of them, now almost all the empty shop lots have become hostels,” he said while questioning whether the authorities, especially the Kulim Municipal Council (MPKK) and the Immigration Department, were monitoring the development.

The authorities, especially the Kulim Municipal Council (MPKK), are urged to take strict action against local residents who allow their premises and business licenses to be used by foreigners for business.

Lunas State Assembly Member, Khairul Anuar Ramli, said the problem of the influx of foreigners in Lunas is not new, on the contrary, it has become more critical when there are premises operated by non-citizen traders in every housing estate in the area.

“The authorities should control this problem because many complaints have been made by the residents to the MPKK. This problem has continued because no aggressive action has been taken by the authorities even though the residents have complained.

“I myself touched on this issue during the Kedah State Legislative Assembly (DUN) session, mentioning the elements that need to be taken into account regarding the settlement of foreigners, so that they can do business freely. However, the relevant agencies gave answers that only sounded good to the ears, but were not completed seriously.

“The reason is that the premises are owned by locals and are licensed, so they are not illegal. The business we are questioning is done by foreigners from Bangladesh and Myanmar, so it can be said that in almost all residential areas, they do business,” he said.

He questioned whether the relevant authorities did not know or deliberately did not want to take action on the grounds that it was a development area and if the foreigners involved were detained, there would be no labor force to build the factory and investors would move elsewhere.

Khairul Anuar said, what he raised was not insisting that foreigners be arrested, but actions to crack down on foreigners who do business using the licenses of local citizens.

“If they do not have a valid permit, that is the Immigration Department’s business. At the MPKK administrative level, there needs to be serious action to deal with this issue. They do business as if they are in their home country.

“Indirectly they dominate the local economy. If we go to foreign countries, can we do business like them? Of course not, we can even be taken to jail,” he said.

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