Yangon – Myanmar’s navy says it has seized a boat carrying 173 undocumented people, allegedly from Bangladesh, in Myanmar’s waters around 220 kilometers from Kawthaung Township in Tanintharyi Region.
The Office of the Commander-in-Chief of the Defense Services said it apprehended the boat with seven crew members from Myanmar and carrying 173 “Bengalis” on Sunday morning.
The term “Bengali” is often used to refer to the “Rohingya”, or Muslims from northern Rakhine State, to imply that their roots are in neighboring Bangladesh.
Military spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun told The Irrawaddy that the boat appeared on radar.
He said around 181 people, mainly “Bengalis”, were detained, including 82 men, 69 women, 14 boys, nine girls and seven crew on their way to Malaysia.
The voyage was reportedly arranged by a Bangladeshi citizen from Bangladesh’s St Martin’s Island on Dec. 2.
According to the Voice of America, most of those held were refugees from camps in Bangladesh.
More than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims in northern Rakhine State fled Myanmar to neighboring Bangladesh in late 2017 after the government’s security forces launched clearance operations in response to attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on police outposts.
Most are sheltering in camps in Bangladesh and there are regular reports of refugees trying to flee the country.
Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun told The Irrawaddy: “According to our investigations, they left the island on Dec. 1. The boat was heading to Malaysia.”
He added that the detainees would be sent to Kawthaung.
In November, about 96 undocumented migrants from Rakhine State were arrested at Chaungtha Beach, Pathein Township in Ayeyarwady Region, on their way to Yangon.
In November last year, about 100 undocumented people from a camp in Sittwe, Rakhine State, were arrested near Yangon’s Kyauktan Township while they were sailing to Thailand.
The immigration authorities in Naypyitaw and Tanintharyi Region were unavailable for comment.
SEO: Navy, undocumented people, Bangladesh, Kawthaung Township, Tanintharyi Region, Office of the Commander-in-Chief of Defense Services, Bengalis, Rohingya, Rakhine State, Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun, refugees, human rights, military, Tatmadaw