Tensions erupted into full scale riots yesterday outside Low Yat Plaza in Kuala Lumpur just after midnight today after fights broke out between 2 rival gangs. Large groups of gang members, who had allegedly gathered to back up some of their members who had been chased out of the building after assaulting OPPO handphone sales staff, had earlier been ordered to disperse by Malaysian police but failed to do so.
Fistfights broke out among members of both groups while helmets and other items were thrown at each other. One group was also overheard demanding to meet Kuala Lumpur police chief Datuk Tajuddin Md Isa.
Several people, including media personnel, were reportedly injured in the riot. A reporter from a Malaysian vernacular press who was caught in the melee was also punched in the face.
Reporters at the scene also said that several explosions also took place during the incident.
As the situation escalated, several more police patrol cars were despatched to the area. More motorcycle unit police personnel were also seen seen arriving at the scene.
All shops in the area, including 24-hour convenience stores have shuttered up as one group chased the other group along Jalan Bukit Bintang.
Police have ordered everyone, including media personnel to disperse, failing which, they were warned that they will be arrested.
Police then sent in four Federal Reserve Units and a water canon in Jalan Bukit Bintang. The units began sweeping the area for the trouble-makers, making several arrests.
The Star Malaysia reported that the Low Yat Plaza saga began on Saturday when a young gang member visited a shop there to buy a Lenovo S860 handphone worth RM799. When the salesman who attended the man turned to grab a free gift for the youth, the youth took the handphone and ran.
According to The Star, after a chase, handphone dealers from OPPO, another handphone shop, caught the suspect and assaulted him before handing him over to the police.
Unhappy with the treatment of their gang member, the suspect's friends barged into the plaza and attacked the store where the employees had helped in apprehending the suspect. They were overpowered and thrown out of the plaza and later in the evening, some 200 people, some of them said to be from a Malay rights group Pekida, congregated at the plaza, forcing the authorities to order the businesses at the premises to close early.
Police, meanwhile, cordoned off the area and prevented the group from entering the building.
They were heard screaming derogatory and unsavoury remarks and appeared ready to charge into the premises when the management and authorities decided to close early.
Kuala Lumpur CID chief Datuk Zainuddin Ahmad had announced that the brawl last night was not racially motivated, but purely an act of revenge by a group of youths unhappy that one of their friends was arrested for allegedly stealing a mobile phone.
One of them, believed to a the group’s representative, was heard telling the crowd that the gathering was about seeking justice.
"We want justice and fairness, let the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) be aware of what happened yesterday," he said.
Yesterday's incident went viral on social networking sites with many jumping to the conclusion that it was racially motivated.
The postings on social media also said that the man currently in police custody for alleged shoplifting had been conned when purchasing a mobile phone at the shop.
It was claimed that the man had snatched a unit from a salesman after the latter had refused to replace the mobile phone he bought earlier.
Kuala Lumpur police chief Tajuddin who was at the scene, once again urged the public not to speculate on what had happened and allow police to conduct their investigation of the case.
"We are going to investigate both parties thoroughly without any bias," Tajuddin had said.
The situation was thought to have been resolved when two hours later, a group of about more than 100, turned up and started attacking another group, which led to chaos in downtown Kuala Lumpur.
Until Press time, police were still combing the surrounding area, looking for trouble-makers.