Sep 25, 2008

Tour of Kamunting Detention Camp

Extract a Report from Straits Times Singapore as reported by Reme Ahmad who was given a tour of the Kamunting Detention Camp.

IN May 2004, I was among a group of some 30 journalists who were allowed into the dreaded Kamunting detention camp in remote Perak. Kamunting is a high-security prison where Internal Security Act (ISA) detainees - who can be imprisoned without trial - are often held. In Malaysia, the terms ISA and Kamunting go together. If you are arrested under the ISA, you are often first brought to Bukit Aman (ironically, Hill of Peace in Malay) headquarters of the federal police, or the Police Remand Centre for interrogation, and then onwards to Kamunting.

The latest to hit the news with his transfer from Bukit Aman to Kamunting was blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin yesterday. He sadly joined the five leaders of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) who were detained since December last year.

That 2004 visit was the first, and only time since, that journalists were allowed into the camp to see its living conditions. It was part of Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi's liberalisation policy - he had just won big-time in the March 2004 (yes, March 2004, not 2008) general elections and the government was full of confidence and promise. It had won 90 per cent of seats in Parliament - a record.

The visit was hosted by then-Deputy Home Minister Noh Omar who wanted to show journalists that the government had nothing to hide, despite the noise made then by the opposition, rights groups and families of the detainees that horrible things are happening inside.

I shivered as I looked around this Malaysian Alcatraz, with its trimmed lawns. This was a place where Clint Eastwood could escape from. The 114ha camp (about 140 football fields) had double security checks before anyone is allowed in or out. And if one could cut through one set of fence, there is another layer of fence to deal with.

For the Full Report go HERE.
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