A Week in Malaysian News: Begpackers, Questionable Degrees and 47 Malaysians in Cambodian Prison.

Monday, February 4


Datuk Marzuki Yahya. (Malaymail: Yusof Mat Isa)

Deputy Foreign Minister, Datuk Marzuki Yahya unexpectedly found himself under the spotlight. A Facebook user claimed that the University of Cambridge did not offer the distance-learning programme that Marzuki claimed to have pursued. Yet, Marzuki refuted this, claiming that it is a “political game”. He offered to show proof of his time at the university.

On Tuesday, a Twitter user brought to attention to Marzuki’s Wikipedia page where details on his alma mater and education had been deleted. Previously, Wikipedia stated that Marzuki obtained a Bachelor’s in Business Administration from the University of Cambridge.

Afterwards, on Wednesday, Marzuki, claimed that his critics “misunderstood” him. He added that studied at “Cambridge International University” and not the “University of Cambridge”. The Cambridge International University (CIU) is allegedly located in the United States and has no affiliations with the UK university. In addition, The Star reported that CIU offers distance-learning programmes with costs as low as RM 20,000 paid through PayPal.

Later on, more questions came up after a picture of an “Associate Professor” on the CIU website appeared to be taken from an online dating platform. Likewise, faculty members did not appear on Google searches, and LinkedIn profiles were nowhere in sight. The website does not list a physical address of the university office. Also, The Star reported that attempts to email faculty members were futile, as email addresses could not be found.

Tuesday, February 5

The police arrested a Russian “begpackercouple in Bukit Bintang after a video of them swinging their baby went viral. In the video, the baby’s father is seen to be swinging their baby in the air. Also, other white tourists appear in the video chanting and playing instruments while asking for donations from the crowd.

The user who shared the video added that he resorted to uploading the video as the couple ignored bystanders who had asked them to stop. However, the police who were standing nearby did not bother to interven.

Begpackers”, derived from the word “backpackers”, have been a growing phenomenon in Malaysia. “Begpackers” are international tourists who beg for money in public spaces, hoping for locals to fund their travels.

Wednesday, February 6

The Orang Asli community in Grik claims that the Perak government has encroached onto their land for logging. This comes barely a month after Putrajaya sued the Kelantan government for violating Orang Asli land rights,

Subqequently, on February 1, the community lodged a police report. They claimed that the logging company and the Perak Forestry Department threatened them. According to villagers, last year, a logging company brought in machinery that damaged water pipes that supplied water to at least 50 villagers. Furthermore, a representative of the community said that they had protested, but their pleas fell on deaf ears. 

Thursday, February 7

Malaysian Embassy official with the 47 detainees in Phnom Penh. (Malaysiakini)

The Foreign Ministry has confirmed that the police detained 47 Malaysians in Poi Pet, Cambodia. The Star reported that the police made the arrest on December 11, 2018. Then, the Cambodian authorities confirmed the arrests to the relevant Malaysian parties on December 28, 2018.

The detainees have been in Phnom Penh for a few weeks. A recruitment company promised the 47 young Malaysian of high paying jobs. In returnt, allegedly, they had paid hundreds of dollars to the recruitment agency.
Once they arrived in Cambodia, the recruitment agency kept them private accommodation without work. Yet, since their arrest, the recruitment agency has disappeared.

Meanwhile, the Malaysian embassy has confirmed that they are between
18 to 20 years old. Moreover, they believed to be from Sabah and Sarawak, according to Free Malaysia Today. Additionally, officials from the Malaysian Embassy have visited the detainees to ensure they are staying under good conditions. However, there is concern that they could stay in the Cambodian prison for up to three years without trial. Currently, the Malaysian Foreign Ministry and Malaysian authorities are working on the case.

Friday, February 8

Rohingya camps in Bangladesh. (Reuters: Danish Siddiqui)

Free Malaysia Today reported that the Bangladesh border guards arrested two suspects of human trafficking on Thursday night in Cox’s Bazar district. Likewise, the guards found 30 Rohingya refugees, including 17 women, 6 children and 7 men.

The Bangladesh guards detained them in the town of Teknaf’s beach. Apparently, the traffickers were attempting to smuggle the refugees by boat to Malaysia. Reportedly, the refugees paid up to 1,000 US dollars to board the boat to Malaysia. The guards will be sending the refugees back to their camps.

Saturday, February 9

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Committee (MACC) has arrested a Johor MP for taking bribes. Free Malaysia Today reported that the 56-year-old “Datuk” was part of the board of directors of the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda).

MACC suspects him of using his position in Felda to commission the RM 13mil deal of printing the 1Surua newsletter. This deal ended up going to a company that he had interests in. In exchange, he allegedly received RM 50,000 in 2013 and RM 180,000 piece of land in Mukim Kota Tinggi, Johor.

The suspect was detained in MACC headquarters in Putrajaya on the 9th of February. He was charged on the 10th of February at the Johor Bahru Sessions Court. The Star reported that Datuk Seri Azam Baki, MACC deputy commissioner said the suspect will  face two charges under Section 165 of the Penal Code. These charges pertain to using one’s status for personal gain.

"They say that great minds think alike, but also fools seldom differ"

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