Malaysian police arrested some 44 Nepali migrant workers today.

The police arrested the Nepali migrant workers after some 500 migrant workers started riot, set fire to an electronics factory and attacked officers, a senior security official said.

The workers initially went on strike early yesterday to express their dissatisfaction over working conditions but their action subsequently turned violent, a local police chief in southern Johor state Mohamad Idris Samsuri said, adding that the management and the police held talks to resolve the misunderstanding but it failed. “The workers then turned violent and aggressive in the late evening, and burnt part of the two-story factory that produces hard-drives.”

The police had to use water cannon to disperse the agitators but some retaliated by throwing stones. The agitators also stoned the office section of the factory and burned a car.

The agitators also forced us to fire teargas, he added. “About 125 police personnel including members of the anti-riot unit were deployed at the factory to chase away the rioters.”

The factory has been employing some 1,600 Nepali migrant workers.

“Operations of the factory have been suspended for the investigation of riot,” Mohamad added.

The Southeast Asia’s third largest economy Malaysia is one of Asia’s largest importers of foreign labour, mostly from neighbouring Indonesia, Bangladesh and Nepal. It is also one of the most favoured labour destination of the Nepali migrant workers. However, migrant workers often are abused with long and poor working conditions and often do not enjoy labour laws protection.

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