YANGON (AFP) – Nearly 100 Rohingya smuggled from Myanmar’s conflict-scarred Rakhine state were arrested in a raid in Yangon, police announced yesterday, with authorities saying they had been headed to Malaysia as part of a trafficking network.
The plight of the Rohingya captured international headlines in 2017 after a military crackdown in western Rakhine state sent almost 750,000 fleeing across the border to Bangladesh.
Members of the stateless minority group have long faced discrimination in Myanmar, where they are denied freedom of movement and citizenship, and lack access to work, healthcare and schools.
With the remaining languishing in camps that rights groups have described as “apartheid-like”, many choose to embark on treacherous routes with human smugglers to reach Malaysia and Indonesia. The latest smuggling operation was uncovered by Yangon police on Wednesday, who raided two houses in Shwepyitha township and discovered 99 Rohingya.
“They came from Maungdaw, Buthidaung, Sittwe and Kyauktaw townships (in Rakhine state) to travel to Malaysia to work,” the township’s Deputy Police Superintendent Tin Maung Lwin told AFP yesterday.
Images published by local media showed the Rohingya huddled barefoot and wearing face masks, in front of a leafy multi-storey house where they had reportedly been hiding for months.
Seventy-three of the group were women, Tin Maung Lwin told AFP, and they were accompanied by a number of children between the ages of five to 10.