A newly surfaced video shows a group of smugglers mercilessly beating rake-thin persecuted Rohingya Muslim refugees crowded onto a Malaysia-bound fishing boat at sea.
The video, filmed on a mobile phone apparently in April, shows dozens of refugees sitting in the hull and on the deck as smugglers stand among them.
One of the traffickers, holding a thick rope in one hand, pushes a Rohingya man back and kicks him. He then uses a whip with his other hand to repeatedly lash a group of shirtless refugees, including children, who scramble to avoid the beating.
The footage was shot several days before the group’s Malaysia-bound boat returned to Bangladesh in mid-April. It had departed in February.
Rohingya witnesses, who were on the ship, later told media outlets that several of their fellows on their vessel died from beatings, starvation, and illness.
“They started beating us because we complained about the food,” Mohammad Osman, a 16-year-old passenger from refugee camps in Bangladesh, said of the dangerous voyage. “They randomly beat us just because we were asking for more rice and water.”
Enamul Hasan, 19, another Rohingya refugee, told a similar story and said, “They beat us mercilessly — hitting our heads, tearing at our ears, breaking hands.”
The refugees had initially kept pleading to be taken to land as they tried to survive on starvation rations of rice and water, he added. “But the smugglers told us to shut up and that there was no land for us. They said they’d kill us if we kept talking.”
The Rohingya then reportedly threatened the smugglers and asked that they be taken to land. Days later, the smugglers left the refugees near Bangladesh and fled.
VIDEO: From the crowded camps of Bangladesh, Rohingya refugees take a dangerous and sometimes deadly trip by land and water as they try to reach Malaysia.— AFP News Agency (@AFP) December 15, 2020
An @AFP investigation has pieced together the human trafficking network running the dangerous passage to a new life pic.twitter.com/yrJDzvPkKX
Since the start of 2020, up to 1,400 Rohingya people have been stranded in boats in the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal after fleeing persecution in Myanmar and refugee camps in Bangladesh.
In June , Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said the country could not take in any more Rohingya, citing a struggling economy battered by the coronavirus pandemic.
Malaysia has stepped up maritime patrols since the outbreak of the coronavirus to stop Rohingya boats from landing. Although some have made it ashore, many boats have been turned back, sparking anger from rights groups.
Myanmar, the Rohingyas’ native homeland, is already under international pressure after a bloody military crackdown in 2017 sent around 750,000 civilians fleeing into Bangladesh and prompted the filing of genocide charges at the United Nations (UN)’s top court.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) and other humanitarian organizations have said that Myanmar’s government had failed to abide by its international obligations to account for the army’s atrocities against minorities, particularly the Rohingya Muslims in the state of Rakhine.
Thousands of Rohingya Muslims still remain in Myanmar under apartheid-like conditions, confined to camps and villages and denied access to healthcare and education.
The Rohingya are denied citizenship in Myanmar and considered illegal immigrants, despite their ancestral roots dating back centuries.
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