Agroup of 17 Muslim migrants arrive at the Thae Chaung village in Sittwe, Rakhine State on 13 January. A total of 17 people, including children and women believed to have fled the state of Rakhine and Bangladesh, were arrested on 15 December 2019 as they arrived on the shores of Kawthaung District. They were sent back to Sittwe by Navy ships. Authorities arranged temporary shelter for the group at the Sai Tha Mar Gyi village near Sittwe. Photo: EPA
Nearly 200 Rohingya Muslims arrested at sea last month by Myanmar's navy after a voyage of hundreds of kilometres have been sent back to Rakhine state, officials said.
Seasonal calmer waters have seen an increase in the number of Rohingya putting their lives in the hands of traffickers in a desperate bid to reach Malaysia or Indonesia by boat.
But few make it as far as Kawthaung, Myanmar's southern-most tip, where the group of 173 were picked up mid-December.
Images taken on Monday showed 17 men, women and children looking exhausted from their ordeal as they climbed down from a wooden boat on to a beach near western Rakhine state's capital, Sittwe.
Wearing identification numbers around their necks, they lined up on the sand clutching their meagre belongings before being escorted away by armed police.
They were taken to Thechaung camp, while the remaining 156 were transported further north to Ngakhuya camp in Maungdaw township, Rakhine State minister for security and border affairs said.
Ngakhuya is a processing site for returning refugees on the Bangladeshi border.
"I'm not sure whether action will be taken against them or not," Colonel Min Than told AFP by phone, adding that their fate would be decided by the UEHRD, a government department overseeing Rakhine.
A bloody military crackdown in 2017 forced some 740,000 Rohingya to flee over the border to Bangladesh in violence that has seen Myanmar accused of "genocide" at the UN's top court in The Hague.
Bangladesh has made life increasingly unbearable in the sprawling camps with barbed-wire fences, an internet blackout and the confiscation of phones.
Meanwhile hundreds of thousands more Rohingya remain in Myanmar's Rakhine in what Amnesty International has branded "apartheid" conditions.
They have nearly no freedom of movement and little access to work, education and healthcare.
The captured Rohingya came from both sides of the border, Min Than said, although it was unclear how they ended up on the same boat.
Mandalay Region Water Resources and Rivers Development Department chief Kyaw Myint Than told (Mizzima) that they are planning to take legal action against illegal gold miners working the Ayeyarwady River near Pay Thaung village, Thabeikkyin township in Mandalay Region under the Water Resources and Rivers Law, and Mining Law.
On January 13, the township police force, the township administrative chief, the Mandalay Region Water Resources and Rivers Development Department, and the Mining Department jointly arrested the illegal gold miners.
“We have seized their equipment as evidence,” said Kyaw Myint Than, Mandalay Region Water Resources and Rivers Development Department chief.
Although the pieces of equipment have been seized, nobody has been detained, said the relevant officials.
Kyaw Myint Than said that illegal gold mining in Ayeyarwady River can damage the river and the natural environment. The chemicals used in gold mining also damages the quality of the water in the river, and that’s why they are planning to take legal actions against the illegal gold miners, he said.