Security personnel are suspected of helping to transport people who recently entered northern Arakan State illegally from Bangladesh, according to presidential spokesperson U Zaw Htay.
“Frankly speaking, human traffickers smuggle returnees and drugs into the Maungdaw region in cooperation with security personnel,” U Zaw Htay said during a press conference held at the Presidential Palace in Nay Pyi Taw on June 19.
He added that action under Myanmar immigration law would be taken against the illegal returnees and those responsible for facilitating their return.
Although a fence is built along the Myanmar-Bangladesh border, complete control of border crossings is not possible, he contended, saying it is believed that the trafficking routes include difficult-to-patrol stretches such as small creeks used by locals for fishing.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Myanmar government has suspended the repatriation of hundreds of thousands of refugees living across the border in Bangladesh camps. But since the suspension, the number of illegal returnees has reached 81, according to a source from the Maungdaw deputy commissioner’s office.
Among the unlawful entrants, four from Maungdaw Township and three from Buthidaung Township have tested positive for coronavirus.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Arakan State stood at nine as of June 18, according to a press release issued by the Ministry of Health and Sports.