Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Rohingya trafficked to Malaysia: officials



Rohingya trafficked to Malaysia: officials

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A wooden boat transports Rohingya refugees after it was intercepted in the waters off Bireuen, Aceh province, Indonesia on December 27. STR/AFP

Rohingya trafficked to Malaysia: officials

At least 67 Rohingya refugees have escaped from a temporary camp in Lhokseumawe City, Aceh, Indonesia and are believed to have been trafficked to neighboring Malaysia, local officials said.

Lhokseumawe Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Eko Hartanto said the Rohingya made their escape from the refugee camp in Meunasah Mee Kandang village in the coastal district of Muara Batu throughout the past year. Police believed human trafficking syndicates were involved.

Eko said the syndicate members were from several areas in North Sumatra province, which is south of Aceh, including Medan, Deli Serdang, Tebing Tinggi and Tanjung Balai. He added that they would pick up Rohingya refugees in Aceh and bring them down to Medan before trafficking them to Malaysia through the province’s Tanjung Balai Port.

“This is the work of syndicates. This is their known modus [operandi],” Eko told the Jakarta Post on Friday.

The police have been tracking the syndicate’s operations for some time, he said. Syndicate members would damage the engine of incoming Rohingya boats, knowing that they would be towed and placed in temporary refugee camps in Aceh, before helping them escape.

“We already have 12 similar cases with 14 suspects. We aim to put a stop to this,” Eko said.

A Myanmar military crackdown in 2017, which United Nations investigators said amounted to genocide, forced 750,000 Rohingya to flee across the border into Bangladesh’s southeast coastal district of Cox’s Bazar, where many ended up in sprawling refugee camps.

Thousands have since paid smugglers to get them out of Bangladesh, enduring harrowing, months-long sea journeys punctuated by illness, beatings by traffickers and near-starvation rations to reach Indonesia and Malaysia.

Many of these boats would enter Indonesian waters in Aceh before being saved and brought ashore by local fishermen or authorities.

Marzuki, the spokesman of Lhokseumawe’s Rohingya Refugee Management Task Force, said the refugee camp in the city had loose security, making it easy for the refugees to escape. He said they would often break the camp’s fence to escape.

According to Marzuki, the most recent escape happened on Thursday morning when 31 Rohingya made their way out by cutting a part of the camp’s corrugated zinc fence.

“None of those escapees have returned. We now have 41 Rohingya refugees in the camp after 67 got out,” Marzuki said.

Many of the escapees are part of 105 Rohingya refugees who arrived in Aceh late last year.

Officials said all Rohingya refugees in Aceh were under the responsibility of the UN’s refugee agency. Local military and police only have the authority over the refugees in the first 10 days of their arrival in Aceh. After that, they are turned over to the UNHCR.

Eko said it was the responsibility of the UNHCR to remove refugees from the temporary camp to a permanent one.

“The removal has not been done so far,” the police chief said.

UNHCR spokeswoman Mitra Suryono confirmed the escapes.

“They left the camp, even though there was security,” Mitra told the Jakarta Post.

According to her, the agency has advocated the refugees on the risk of irregular travel, including the danger of using trafficking networks. The agency understood that the refugees had left the camp with help from “outside parties”.

Mitra said the UNHCR continued to communicate and coordinate with the local authorities, including giving them all the information they had.

THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Education’ a priority traffic-law penalty

    A top National Police official on June 21 neither rejected nor confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audio message, which has gone viral on social media, on a waiver of fines for a number of road traffic-related offences. General Him Yan, deputy National Police chief in

  • Pursat Ford assembly plant opens

    The Kingdom’s first Ford assembly plant was inaugurated on June 16 in Pursat province amid rising demand for brand-new vehicles among Cambodians. The facility is seen as a game changer for the domestic automobile industry, which could bring a wave of investors seeking to cash

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • Siem Reap’s $18M zoo said to educate public, help wildlife

    Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium Co Ltd has invested $18 million in a zoo in Siem Reap province, which will be opened in October to educate and promote animal conservation as well as attract national and international tourists. Currently, the Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium is building the

  • $50B infrastructure plan en route

    The government’s upcoming $50 billion,10-year infrastructure master plan will provide tremendous investment opportunities for domestic and foreign entities, transport experts and economists say. Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol revealed the plan to Japanese ambassador to Cambodia Masahiro Mikami on June 15. At

  • Chinese firms unveil preliminary results on metro, monorail for capital

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol and representatives from China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) and its parent company, the state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), met on June 24 for talks on results of the firms’ preliminary study on a potential metro