Malaysia has evacuated the families of staff at a consulate in volatile Indonesian Borneo, citing safety fears because of tensions over alleged mistreatment of an Indonesian maid in Malaysia, the government said Friday.
But Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar denied reports that the consulate in Pontianak, the capital of West Kalimantan, an Indonesian province that borders Malaysia’s Sarawak state, had closed.
He said the evacuations were ordered on the advice of local Indonesian officials following recent threats against Malaysians in the region by locals.
He said dozens of Malaysians traveling in cars and a bus were detained in the region last week, but were released unharmed after embassy officials intervened.
Malaysians should avoid traveling to the Indonesian province, he said.
“The situation is not a critical level but we should take preventive measures,” Syed Hamid told reporters Friday.
Tensions between Malays and Indonesians in West Kalimantan stem from the alleged assault with a hammer of an Indonesian maid by her Malay employer in Sarawak. In January, a Malaysian housewife was charged with the assault in a Sarawak court.
Syed Hamid said Malaysia was assisting the maid and her family in an attempt to soothe tensions.
“The case in now being tried in Malaysian courts and we have met the maid’s family to explain the situation in our efforts to defuse the situation,” he said.