Myanmar navy arrests 130 Rohingya attempting to flee to Malaysia

Brokers buying food for the dangerous journey had revealed details of the trip to villagers.
By RFA Burmese
Myanmar navy arrests 130 Rohingya attempting to flee to Malaysia Some of the more than 130 Rohingya who were arrested by the Myanmar junta navy are seen in Chaungzon township, Mon state on April 2, 2023.
Credit: Citizen journalist

Nearly 130 Rohingya Muslims leaving Myanmar for Malaysia by boat were arrested by the junta’s navy in waters off Mon state on Sunday after brokers revealed information about them to local villagers.

A resident said a boat was seized when the arrests were made near the Gulf of Martaban in southeast Myanmar after brokers went to buy food in Chaungzon township. Authorities have sent 65 of the boat people to Mawlamyine Prison in Mon state to await trial, he said.

A lawyer representing the Rohingyas said the junta often regards such people as illegal immigrants, and that they would likely be charged with immigration law violations.

The four brokers, who were Buddhists from western Myanmar’s Rakhine state, were also arrested. Several Rohingya Muslim children were also on board, and were being cared for by local people, the resident said. 

A member of a local charity group from Chaungzon township said there have been similar arrests of Rohingya in the area in the past. Those arrested are normally sent to prison, the worker said.

“But I don’t know what will happen to them next,” the charity worker said. “I think they will be interrogated and some of them might be bailed out and the rest will go to prison.”

This boat was carrying more than 130 Rohingya from Rakhine state when it was stopped by the Myanmar junta navy on April 2, 2023. Credit: Citizen Journalist

Latest group to try to reach Malaysia

More than 740,000 Rohingya fled Rakhine following a military crackdown on the ethnic group that started more than five years ago, and now live in refugee camps in Bangladesh. Of the more than 600,000 that remained in Rakhine, around 125,000 are living in displaced people’s camps in the state.

Every year, hundreds abandon the camps and take to the sea in small, poorly-provisioned boats to try to reach other countries, including Muslim majority countries like Malaysia and Indonesia.

According to statistics collected by Radio Free Asia, nearly 2,000 Rohingyas have been arrested on their way to Malaysia from refugee camps in Rakhine and Bangladesh from December 2021 to March 2023. 

The junta has sentenced nearly 500 of them to two to five years in prison under Myanmar’s immigration law. 

A Rohingya aid worker in Yangon, who did not want to be named for security reasons, told RFA that the Rohingya fleeing Rakhine know they could be arrested or killed on the way, but they are risking their lives to live freely.

“They are not allowed to go anywhere in that state,” the aid worker said. “They left risking their lives, as they know they would be free in a new land, if they escape, or they will just go back to their original lives of failure if they get caught. They have already anticipated that they could end up like this.” 

Rohingyas usually pay almost 8 million kyat (about U.S.$2,800) per person before they begin their journey to Malaysia from Rakhine, and some end up being abandoned by brokers along the way, he said.

RFA contacted the military junta spokesman for Mon state, Toe Win, but he didn’t immediately return the call.

Translated by Myo Min Aung. Edited by Matt Reed and Malcolm Foster.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.