Immigration officials in Burma’s restive Arakan state have been instructed by authorities to prevent all Muslims from travelling outside of their townships, according to local sources.
An immigration official in Sandoway township in southern Arakan state told DVB that authorities from the state government had called their department on the phone on Monday to pass on the order.
“I don’t know much about it apart from that it [came by] phone instruction from the Arakan state government,” said the official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “We just found out today when our supervisor spoke to senior officials on the phone.”
A local resident who spoke on the condition of anonymity in Sandoway township said she was told by the chief district immigration official that they had received orders to prevent Muslims, including those with identification cards, from travelling.
“I was planning to go to Rangoon tomorrow but was unable to buy a plane ticket as there has been an order to not allow [Muslims],” said the local, who has an official identification card.
According to the resident, the order was sent out to checkpoints and officials. When she asked the district immigration chief whether the orders applied to everyone in the state, he allegedly replied: “No, only Muslims.”
“The immigration office said they couldn’t approve our travel as there is an order from the state [immigration authorities]. They said they can’t allow even those with citizen ID cards without approval by state immigration.”
The order came as UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights to Burma Tomas Ojea Quintana visited the state and a prominent Rohingya activist was arrested by police earlier today in Sittwe.
While stateless Rohingyas have long-since had their movements restricted by state authorities, Muslim residents in the western state with official papers have been allowed to travel more freely.
-Aye Nai contributed reporting.