Myanmar activists in Malaysia have been placed on high alert after a former 88 Generation activist was stabbed to death in Kuala Lumpur last week.

The body of Ko Aung Gyi, who was a leading activist in the 1988 general strike committee, was found in a car in Cheras Baru near Kuala Lumpur on February 4, said U San Win, chairman of the Kepong Free Funeral Service Society, which provides free funerals to Myanmar migrants.

“He was helping a friend who was looking to buy a car. That day a man called him saying he wanted to sell his car and [Ko Aung Gyi] went there at about 6pm to look it over. He didn’t come back and police found his body in the car on February 5,” U San Win said.

“According to the police, he was stabbed with a sharp object – police said it could be a screwdriver,” he said, adding that the authorities had informed his family.

Ko Aung Gyi was cremated on February 8, U San Win added.

The activist was killed just a day before two men on a motorcycle shot at two prominent Rakhine politicians during a visit to Malaysia. Neither Rakhine Nationalities Development Party chairman U Aye Maung nor Arakan League for Democracy chairman U Aye Thar Aung were injured in the attack but their vehicle was sprayed with bullets. The Rakhine politicians have blamed the attack on “Islamic terrorists”. In June 2013 a number of Myanmar migrants were killed in Malaysia in violence between Buddhists and Muslims.

U San Win said he believed Ko Aung Gyi had been killed because of his efforts to help migrants affected by the violence. Other activists are now taking extra precautions in case they are also targeted.

“Ko Aung Gyi strongly stood for Myanmar migrants and actively helped workers after the violence broke out in Malaysia,” he said.

“Ko Aung Gyi and I – as well as many other activists here – received threatening calls at that time. Whether this murder is connected to [the violence] or not, we are on alert.”

Penang Free Funeral Service Society founder Ko Mya Win said Ko Aung Gyi’s death had shocked Myanmar civil society groups in Malaysia. However, he said he did not think the killing was a “threat” toward activists.

“I have to admit though that it has had some effect on us,” he said. “Some groups said they are worried about their safety but I think it it’s not too serious yet.”

The Myanmar Times contacted U Soe Win, an official at the Myanmar embassy in Malaysia, but he declined to comment on Ko Aung Gyi’s death.

Ko Ant Bwe Kyaw, an information officer at the 88 New Generation Students, said Myanmar activists need to take care for their own safety.

“I hope the Malaysia police and government also take care of activists and workers,” he said. “It’s time for both governments to protect people because this is not the first time that Myanmar citizens have been killed in Malaysia.”

U San Win agreed that neither government paid enough attention to the safety of migrant workers.

“It is so easy to kill a person in Malaysia. Many of our citizens have been killed during the past eight months but we have not seen any of the murderers arrested … We also can’t count on the Myanmar embassy.”