Bangladeshi police raided a house and arrested six people including a suspected human trafficker and two Rohingya as they were getting ready to travel by boat to Malaysia via Thailand, officials said Friday.
Mainuddin Khan, officer-in-charge of Teknaf police station, said the six men were arrested Thursday when police raided a home near Teknaf, a coastal town in southeastern Cox's Bazar district. The men were preparing to sail to Malaysia across the Bay of Bengal.
“We received a tip that a group of human traffickers have become active again to lure the Rohingya to take them to Malaysia by sea route,” Khan told BenarNews. “We raided the house of the local middleman … and arrested five potential victims of human trafficking. Two of the five people were Rohingya.”
Police presented the six to a local court, which promptly ordered the detention of the alleged trafficker. The court also ordered the release of the five would-be passengers, including two Rohingya youths and three Bangladeshis, officials said.
While Thailand is closer to Bangladesh, Malaysia is a Muslim-majority nation of 32 million residents that is likely to see more boat people, officials said.
At least 100,000 Rohingya are detained in Malaysian immigration centers and the country has registered more than 59,000 of the refugees with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Two years ago, the discovery of graves of Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants in the jungle along the Thai-Malaysia border led to Thailand mounting a naval blockade against smugglers boats carrying undocumented people from Myanmar and Bangladesh to its shores.
That in turn, caused a regional migration crisis in which close to 3,000 ethnic Rohingya and Bangladeshi nationals eventually came ashore in neighboring Indonesia and Malaysia.
Since Aug. 25 this year, as many as 655,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar into Bangladesh to escape what the United States and the U.N. have described as “ethnic cleansing” by Myanmar’s security forces.
Last month, Myanmar and Bangladesh officials said they had moved one step closer to the possible repatriation of the Rohingya refugees who began the massive exodus after Myanmar’s army launched a crackdown following attacks by the militant group Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army against security forces.
Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.