RANGOON – Police in Gwa Township, Arakan State have charged nine Bangladeshi nationals with violating Burma’s Immigration Act after their boat washed ashore on the southern coast of Arakan State two weeks ago, according to township police head Col Tin Win.
Local police discovered the drifting boat containing nine men and a dead body last month near the coastal village of Zee Kone. The men—of whom six are thought to be aged 20 to 30 and three aged 40 to 50—were arrested and taken to Gwa Township Police Station.
The 1947 Burma Immigration Act’s Article 13 (1) states that anyone entering Burma illegally can be punished with six months to five years imprisonment, a minimum fine of 1,500 kyats, or both.
Police Col Tin Win said that according to testimonies given by the men, the 10 fishermen were drifting for about 20 days in the Bay of Bengal after the fishing boat’s engine malfunctioned.
The boat was only designed for near-shore operations and they did not have tools to fix the engine on board.
The men were adrift without food and water, causing one to die of starvation, said Col Tin Win.
Another police official told The Irrawaddy that the fishermen came from Kuakata Township of Patuakhali District, southeast of Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. Kuakata is the second largest tourist destination in the country.
Col Tin Win said that although they had problems communicating with the men, he explained that the design of the fishing vessel, the mobile phones, the boat’s Japanese engine, and the petrol used, all helped to confirm the boat’s origin as being from Bangladesh.
Gwa Township immigration official U Aung Lay told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that they are waiting a decision from state-level authorities as to whether the case will go to court or the men will be repatriated via the Bangladeshi embassy.
The Irrawaddy was unable to contact either Bangladesh’s consulate in Sittwe or the Arakan State government spokesperson on Wednesday.