Twenty-two Rohingya Muslims trying to escape one of Myanmar’s camps by boat were arrested after they were forced ashore by their leaking vessel, local police said Friday.
The Rohingyas’ plight horrified the world two years ago when a vicious military crackdown forced some 740,000 of the stateless minority to flee to Bangladesh, where they still languish in refugee camps.
But hundreds of thousands more remain in Myanmar, confined since an earlier bout of inter-communal violence in 2012 to camps or villages with little freedom of movement.
With limited access to education, livelihoods or healthcare, Amnesty International condemns their conditions as ‘apartheid’.
Many have tried to escape over the years to Thailand or Malaysia, often paying extortionate fees to human traffickers for places on overcrowded, decrepit boats.
‘There were a total of 22 people, nine men and 13 women,’ found on Wednesday morning, Ayeyarwaddy police force spokesman Tun Shwe said Friday.
He said they told police they had been travelling for four days from Thetkaypyin camp near Rakhine state capital Sittwe.
‘They came ashore because their boat started leaking,’ he said, adding the arrested men and women said they had been trying to reach Yangon to find work.
This is the second group of Rohingya the Ayeyarwaddy police have arrested in recent months.
In September a group of 30 Rohingya, including nine children, were detained as they tried to travel by boat then road from Rakhine state to Yangon. To the outrage of rights groups, eight teenagers were sent to a detention centre while one five-year-old child was imprisoned with his mother and the rest of the group, all sentenced to two years behind bars.
Tun Shwe said no decision had yet been taken on whether the latest group would be sent back to Rakhine or not, adding police were still hunting the traffickers involved.
The Rohingya garner little sympathy within Myanmar, where many people buy the official line that the minority are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, even though many trace their roots in Myanmar back generations.