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Pet Sins June 2001

Southeast Asians detained at Russian border while East Asians unmolested

I've read and heard about Russians treating Africans and Chinese with special disdain, but I've not heard about them picking on people of Southeast Asian nationalities, not until I read an article in a Southeast Asian paper. The following is an excerpt from The Straits Times, Sat Aug 29, 1998:

Four Singaporeans and a Malaysian ...were detained for four days by Russian immigration at the Mongolia-Russia border... They were accused of holding forged passports and were prevented from calling Singapore for verification. They were also not given any food... Miss Carole Lim ... said she and her four friends were kept in 2 "cells" during the four days and guarded always.

...Trouble started when they crossed Mongolia and reached the Russian border town of Naushki on Aug 12... The Japanese, Koreans, Canadians, Americans and Irish travellers went through Customs with no hassle, said Miss Lim. "But one look at our passports, and they told us to step aside."

...C.M. Loh, the only man in the group, said: "They asked us where we got our passports, if we bought it from someone and who our mastermind was." The questioning continued along the same lines for the next 2 days. Said Mr Loh: "We felt so helpless. They refused to believe our answers, and we were not allowed to ask them any questions."

...On the fourth day, Aug 15, they were asked to sign a document, which they found out later was a confession saying that their passports were fakes and that they were not allowed to enter Russia. ... Miss Lim... said she and her friends felt they had to make the story public, as they had heard other reports of Singaporeans being detained.

T.