US airs concerns on Malaysia crackdown

(AFP) – WASHINGTON – THE United States on Wednesday voiced concern about Malaysia’s weekend crackdown on an opposition-backed rally and said it would keep an eye on developments.

Riot police fired tear gas and water cannons to end Saturday’s rally to demand electoral changes and arrested more than 1,600 people. One demonstrator was killed.

‘We do have some concerns,’ State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters. ‘We… continue to stand for the right for people to freely express their democratic aspirations and express their views freely.’

‘I would stress that those must be peaceful demonstrations,’ Mr Toner said. ‘We continue to monitor the situation closely.’

Malaysia has promised to investigate allegations of police brutality. Prime Minister Najib Razak has defended the police, saying the rally was a ploy to tarnish the country’s image. International human rights groups strongly criticised the crackdown and urged the United States and other countries to put pressure on Malaysia to ensure accountability.

Malaysia has been looking to build closer relations with the United States amid an effort by President Barack Obama’s administration to reach out to South-east Asia. — AFP