Sat, Dec 01, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Bangladeshi police arrest 10 Rohingya headed to Malaysia

AFP, COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh

Bangladeshi police have arrested 10 Rohingya refugees as they were about to board a boat to travel to Malaysia, an officer said yesterday.

Southeast Bangladesh is home to about 1 million Rohingya, most of whom fled Myanmar last year following a military crackdown and are now in vast camps.

There are fears that with the current calmer weather, many might try to reach other more prosperous countries by boat by paying often-unscrupulous traffickers.

The police’s elite Rapid Action Battalion said that it stopped the six young women and four men at Shah Porir Dwip, a coastal station, on Thursday night before they could board a boat on the Naf River estuary dividing Bangladesh and Myanmar.

“They were about to head to Malaysia through the Bay of Bengal. The girls won’t be aged more than 22 years. They were tempted that they can get married with well-off persons in Malaysia,” battalion Cox’s Bazar chief Mahedi Hasan told reporters.

People smugglers have in the past few years taken tens of thousands of Rohingya to Malaysia before Bangladesh launched a crackdown in 2015 after Thai authorities discovered mass graves and overcrowded boats drifting at sea.

Hasan said the women paid US$100 each to traffickers and the men paid nearly US$250.

“Each of them were supposed to pay another 200,000 taka [US$2,385] once the boat crosses Thai waters,” he said.

A Bangladeshi trafficker was also arrested, he added.

The battalion said two of those who were arrested arrived in Bangladesh from Myanmar in 2000 to 2001, while the rest were part of an exodus of about 720,000 last year.

Early last month, the Bangladesh Coast Guard intercepted a boat in the Bay of Bengal carrying 33 Rohingya heading to Malaysia.

The sea tends to stay calm from November to March. During this time of year, even small boats can travel long distances via the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea.

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