Myanmar: Junta Returns More Than 400 Muslims To Arakan State
Myanmar’s military regime has returned 423 Muslims to Buthidaung and Maungdaw townships in Arakan State after they unsuccessfully attempted to leave Myanmar for overseas destinations.
“They were sent back in two vessels,” said a source familiar with the transportation arrangements. “They were detained while attempting to leave the country illegally. They were transported by car from Buthidaung to their places. Some of them are from refugee camps.”
The Muslims, including women and children, were detained in Magwe, Bago, Tanintharyi and Yangon regions while in transit from Arakan State.
Risking arrest and prosecution on immigration charges with potential imprisonment of up to five years, Muslims in Arakan State continue to attempt to leave the state to work elsewhere in the country or abroad, driven by job scarcity and institutionalised discrimination in Arakan State.
Authorities imposed strict travel restrictions on Muslims in Arakan State following widespread inter-communal violence between Buddhists and Muslims in Arakan State in 2012. But following a decade of travel restrictions, Muslims are increasingly attempting to leave Arakan State for better living conditions abroad.
“Here in the [displacement] camp, we have some eight family members packed like sardines in a room measuring 11 square feet,” said a Muslim internally displaced person (IDP) at the Thekkel Pyin IDP camp in Sittwe. “The room is small, and we are struggling to make ends meet. The government and donors do provide some supplies. But it is not enough. We have to have freedom. And we want to send our children to school. This is why we are leaving [Arakan State].”
Arakan State Muslims pay agents between K6 million and K10 million per head to “illegally” leave Myanmar. Many of them end up being arrested by authorities.
Human traffickers are not arrested in most cases, however, said a Muslim from Buthidaung Township who called on authorities to take harsher action against traffickers.
“It is partly because they [Muslims in Arakan State] are enticed by traffickers who only care about making money,” he said. “Most of those who have attempted to leave were arrested, but traffickers get money. Such cases will decrease if authorities effectively handle traffickers.”