Myanmar Authorities Drop Illegal Travel Charges Against Hundreds of Rohingya

By Zaw Zaw Htwe 9 April 2020

YANGON—Myanmar authorities have dropped charges against more than 200 Rohingya people accused of leaving Rakhine State illegally, a lawyer for the detainees said.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Labor, Immigration and Population did not respond to The Irrawaddy’s request for comment on why the charges were withdrawn.

In 2001, Myanmar introduced restrictions that prohibit Rohingya people from leaving Rakhine State and requiring them to get permission from township authorities before they travel.

However, since last year, hundreds of Rohingya have been charged under the Immigration Act after being arrested in Ayeyarwaddy, Yangon, Bago and Magwe regions for traveling without permission. 

Lawyer Daw Thazin Myat Myat Win, who represents the detained Rohingya people, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that the Ayeyarwaddy Region Immigration Department recently dropped charges against more than 100 people who were arrested in Pathein Township in two incidents in November 2019 and February 2020. 

“I am very happy they have their freedom. It needed to be done. It’s also good for the government,” the lawyer said.

She said authorities had also dropped cases against another 95 Muslims from Rakhine State who were charged in three other townships. 

Recently freed Rohingya people are seen at the Pathein Township Court on April 8 after charges against them of violating the Immigration Act were dropped. / Salai Thant Zin

Of those 95, 70 were charged in Yangon Region’s Hlegu Township, four in Bago Region, and 21 in Magwe Region’s Minbu Township.

U Saw Naing, the director of the Yangon Region Immigration Department, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday the department withdrew all charges against 78 Muslims from Rakhine who were arrested for entering Yangon without permission, on the orders of the Union Immigration Ministry. 

All of the detainees would be released and returned to their places of origin in Rakhine State, he said. 

“They have to sign a pledge [not to travel illegally again] before being sent back. This is in line with legal procedures,” said U Saw Naing. 

Most of those detained were charged under sections 6(2), and 6(3) of Immigration Act for traveling without proper permission.

If convicted, they would have faced up to two years in prison.

The Irrawaddy reached out to the Union Ministry of Labor, Immigration and Population several times for details on the identity of the detainees and what arrangements officials had made to ensure their safety amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but had yet to receive a response by press time. 

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