Mixed reactions in Penang to gruesome murder cases

Penang Hospital forensic personnel taking the bag with a women's body inside to the hospital. -- PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Penang Hospital forensic personnel taking the bag with a women's body inside to the hospital. -- PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK

GEORGETOWN (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Whenever he hears of communal clashes in Myanmar, Mr Soe Kyaw Kyaw, a factory worker in Georgetown, will stay alert whenever he goes out.

He says there is always the fear that he could be attacked by his countrymen using helmets or being kicked to the ground while cycling on the road.

"It causes anxiety among us whenever there's news about conflict between Muslims and Buddhists in Myanmar," he told The Star at his flat in Taman Juru, Bukit Mertajam.

"There would be confrontation and physical harassment - but not to the extent of taking someone's life."

In recent months, the growing number of Myanmar nationals killed in Penang has caused anxiety among the community and locals here.

Mr Kyaw Kyaw, who has been living here for eight years, says he likes his neighbourhood, but he has heard "horror" stories about his friends staying in other districts.

"Two of my friends were robbed in Bukit Tengah and one of them was killed," said Mr Kyaw Kyaw.

"The one who survived the attack has since flown home," he said, adding that in most instances, fights or arguments between Myanmar nationals only occurred if one was drunk.

Another Myanmar national, Mr Naing Lin, 23, said he felt safe here.

"My four years in Malaysia have been incident-free," he said.

Despite the find of a headless and legless body at a car park near here, joggers and hikers at the Penang Botanic Gardens claimed that the crime rate in Penang was not alarming.

Company administrator Wendy Chong, 26, cited the gruesome murder on Thursday as an isolated case.

"I find it safe to jog here. I come here almost daily and I have never heard of any crime happening in the area - except for this one," she said.

Mr H.C. Lee, 67, said the Botanic Gardens was still his preferred choice for a morning walk.

"The woman had been killed before her body was dumped here," he said.

"If you ask me, I still find the place peaceful."

Fireman Mohd Ali Ahmad, 38, said he even went on hikes at the gardens during the night.

"Policemen often patrol the area," he said.

Police records reveal that since January, 46 murders have been reported here, with 65 per cent or 30 cases involving foreigners.

Of the murdered foreigners, 17 involved Myanmar nationals who had their throats slit.

Penang police chief Senior Deputy Commissioner Wira Abdul Rahim Hanafi told Sunday Star that a special taskforce had been set up to look into the murders.

He called for calm and patience, adding that "the situation is under control".