Myanmar sends nearly 200 Rohingya captured at sea to Rakhine camps


SITTWE — Nearly 200 Rohingya Muslims arrested at sea last month by Myanmar’s navy after a voyage of hundreds of kilometres have been sent back to Rakhine State, officials said Monday.

Seasonal calmer waters have seen an increase in the number of Rohingya putting their lives in the hands of traffickers in a desperate bid to reach Malaysia or Indonesia by boat.

But few make it as far as Kawthaung, Myanmar’s southernmost tip, where the group of 173 were picked up in mid-December.

Images taken on Monday showed 17 men, women and children looking exhausted from their ordeal as they climbed down from a wooden boat on to a beach near western Rakhine State’s capital, Sittwe.

Support more independent journalism like this. Sign up to be a Frontier member.

Wearing identification numbers around their necks, they lined up on the sand clutching their meagre belongings before being escorted away by armed police.

They were taken to Thechaung camp, while the remaining 156 were transported further north to Ngakhuya camp in Maungdaw Township, Rakhine State minister for security and border affairs said.

Ngakhuya is a processing site for returning refugees on the Bangladeshi border. 

“I’m not sure whether action will be taken against them or not,” Colonel Min Than told AFP by phone, adding that their fate would be decided by the Union Enterprise for Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement and Development, a government department overseeing Rakhine.

A bloody military crackdown in 2017 forced some 740,000 Rohingya to flee over the border to Bangladesh in violence that has seen Myanmar accused of “genocide” at the UN’s top court in The Hague.

Bangladesh has made life increasingly unbearable in the sprawling camps with barbed-wire fences, an internet blackout and the confiscation of phones.

Meanwhile hundreds of thousands more Rohingya remain in Myanmar’s Rakhine in what Amnesty International has branded “apartheid” conditions.

They have nearly no freedom of movement and little access to work, education and healthcare. 

The captured Rohingya came from both sides of the border, Min Than said, although it was unclear how they ended up on the same boat.

More stories

Latest Issue

Stories in this issue
Myanmar enters 2021 with more friends than foes
The early delivery of vaccines is one of the many boons of the country’s geopolitics, but to really take advantage, Myanmar must bury the legacy of its isolationist past.
Will the Kayin BGF go quietly?
The Kayin State Border Guard Force has come under intense pressure from the Tatmadaw over its extensive, controversial business interests and there’s concern the ultimatum could trigger fresh hostilities in one of the country’s most war-torn areas.

Support our independent journalism and get exclusive behind-the-scenes content and analysis

Stay on top of Myanmar current affairs with our Daily Briefing and Media Monitor newsletters.

Sign up for our Frontier Fridays newsletter. It’s a free weekly round-up featuring the most important events shaping Myanmar