Authorities stop boat with more than 100 Rohingya near Yangon

By KYAW YE LYNN and MRATT KYAW THU | FRONTIER

YANGON — More than 100 Rohingya Muslims from Rakhine State have been detained after Myanmar authorities intercepted a boat near Yangon on Friday.

The authorities stopped a motorboat carrying 106 people, including 25 children, near Thande village in Yangon’s Kyauktan Township early on Friday morning, according to a lawmaker who represents the area.

“The villagers reported to the police that they found a boat carrying Bengalis, and police and immigration officials stopped it for investigation,” said lawmaker Daw Thet Thet Mu (Kyauktan-2, National League for Democracy).

She said there were “four or five” adults on the boat who could speak Burmese and they told the authorities that they left an IDP camp in the Rakhine State capital Sittwe 10 days ago and planned to sail to Malaysia.

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“They said they faced food shortages in the camp, and were unhappy staying there for years,” she said.

A member of one family, who spoke the Rakhine language, told Frontier they had come from Thetkaypyin on the outskirts of Sittwe, where there is an IDP camp. 

They were temporarily detained at a cyclone shelter near Thande village for further investigation, before being taken in eight light trucks to downtown Kyauktan.

If they do not have identification documents or permission to leave their township they are likely to face immigration charges, which can carry a prison sentence.

Reuters reported on November 8 that “dozens” of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and Bangladesh had boarded boats to try to reach Malaysia, raising fears of a fresh wave of such dangerous voyages after a 2015 crackdown on people smugglers.

An aid worker in Sittwe said they had received information that at least four boats had departed since the start of October, and some of them had already arrived in Malaysia.

In southern Bangladesh, the authorities detained 33 Rohingya and six Bangladeshis aboard a fishing boat bound for Malaysia, Reuters reported.

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