Malaysia police move to foil rally by ethnic Indians

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KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 22 (Reuters) Malaysian police beefed up security around the capital today in what local media say is an attempt to foil a planned mass rally by ethnic Indians who feel they are being marginalised.

The Sunday march, if it goes ahead, would be the country's second street protest in a month.

Indians, who form about eight percent of Malaysia's 26 million people, say a decades-old affirmative action plan for the majority ethnic Malays has deprived them of opportunities, and the government has done little to improve living standards.

Defying a ban on public rallies, a Hindu rights group said it was gathering 10,000 Indians to rally outside the British embassy on Sunday since it was the former colonial ruler that had brought their ancestors to Malaysia to work as indentured labourers.

Police set up roadblocks around the capital today, causing massive traffic jams, motorists said. The local Sun newspaper linked the security measure to Sunday's protest.

News agency Bernama quoted police chief Musa Hassan as saying that police would crack down on the rally.

He said protesters were bent on using sensitive racial issues which could lead to clashes.

Race and religion are touchy issues in multi-racial Malaysia, which had seen bloody race riots between the majority Malays and the Chinese and Indian minorities.

The rally, being organised by the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), follows the Nov. 10 rally which drew 10,000 people in the biggest anti-government protest in a decade.

Police used tear gas and water cannons to break up the opposition-led protest demanding electoral reforms. More than 200 people were arrested.

''We plan to go ahead with the rally on Sunday despite the police trying to prevent Indians from entering Kuala Lumpur,'' Hindraf chairman, Waytha Moorthy, told Reuters.

Moorthy recently filed a 4-trillion dollars suit against the British government, accusing British officials of failing to honour their responsibility to protect ethnic Indians when they granted independence to Malaysia in 1957.

REUTERS RSA RN2043

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