Pathein — Seven undocumented Rohingya Muslims, who were spotted at sea near Chaungtha beach in Ayeyarwady Region, have been sent back to Rakhine State’s capital, Sittwe.
Five men and two women were detained along with five Buddhist boat crew in the sea near Chaungtha on Jan. 4. Police then sent them back to Rakhine, without charging them.
“We sent them back to where they came from,” Ayeyarwady Police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Tun Shwe told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday.
Muslims in Rakhine State who identify as Rohingya are labeled “Bengali” by many, implying they are interlopers from Bangladesh. They are denied freedom of movement due to disputes over their citizenship.
Previously township immigration officers have filed lawsuits against Rohingya entering Ayeyarwady from Rakhine under the Residents of Burma Registration Act 1949.
However, since Myanmar reported COVID-19 in March last year, immigration departments have not filed lawsuits and sent them straight back to Rakhine State.
However, police opened a case against the five boat crew, reportedly Sittwe residents, under Section 367 of the Penal Code which covers abduction and carries up to 10 years in prison.
“They were detained on Jan 4 and they tested negative for COVID-19. Administrative officials, the police and Tatmadaw [military] are conducting joint naval patrols to prevent similar cases,” said Chaungtha Township administrator U Kyaw Thu.
In August last year, Myanmar’s navy detained 42 Rohingya attempting to enter Mawlamyinegyun Township in Ayeyarwady by sea. They were sent back to Rakhine.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.