IN FO­CUS

Mizzima Business Weekly - - CONTENTS - Aung Ko Oo

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.

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