Myanmar authorities will send more than three dozen Rohingya Muslims from Rakhine state found at sea off Tanintharyi region on Nov. 29 back to the state capital Sittwe, a regional police official said Sunday.
Police in Kyunsu township detained and investigated the 38 boat people picked up in the Andaman Sea, Police Colonel Sein Win told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
The group of 19 men, 11 women, and eight children left Rakhine’s Thaechaung village on Nov. 21 and headed by boat to Malaysia.
Myanmar authorities arrested them as they tried to dock on an island after running out of fuel, food, and drinking water.
The number of Rohingya from Myanmar trying to reach Malaysia in hopes for a better life has increased since the annual rainy season ended in late October.
Bangladeshi police rescued 10 Rohingya refugees, including six women, on Nov. 27 and arrested a suspected human trafficker who was about to take them by boat to the Southeast Asian country.
The operation took place days after Tanintharyi region authorities returned 93 Rohingya Muslims to their homes villages and displacement camp in Rakhine state after they said they paid traffickers 500,000 Myanmar kyats (U.S. $312) each to take them by boat to Malaysia in mid-November.
On Nov. 16, Myanmar Navy personnel rescued a group of 106 Rohingya who paid traffickers to take them to Malaysia when their boat’s engine failed, leaving them stranded in the Andaman Sea off Yangon region.
Also in November, another vessel with dozens of Rohingya from the Darpaing displacement camp who left Sittwe on Nov. 18 was detained shortly after setting sail.
Myanmar considers the Rohingya illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and systematically discriminates against them, denying them citizenship — though many have lived in the country for generations — and access to basic services such as education and health care.
Communal violence between Muslims and Buddhists in Rakhine state in 2012 left more than 200 people dead and displaced about 140,000 others, mostly Rohingya who ended up in displacement camps.
In recent years, tens of thousands of them have fled or attempted to flee persecution in Buddhist-majority Myanmar on boats organized by human traffickers and bound for other Southeast Asian nations.
Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.