Authorities in Myanmar have seized a boat transporting more than 220 Rohingya Muslims fleeing displacement camps in the northwestern state of Rakhine.
The state television reported on Monday that children were among the 228 people on board the boat that was seized in waters near Sittwe. Five boat workers were also detained.
Photographs circulated on social media showed naval forces standing by as passengers – many of them women in headscarves and children – huddled on the deck. The boat resembled vessels the Rohingya typically use to escape the Apartheid-like conditions in Rakhine, where their movements and access to services are severely curtailed.
In 2020, nearly three dozen Rohingya died on a ship that drifted for weeks after it failed to reach Malaysia.
Almost 900,000 Rohingya refugees remain stuck in squalid, crowded conditions in refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh. This includes about 750,000 Rohingya who were forced to leave their homeland amid the military-led crackdown against their community in 2017. Thousands were killed, raped, tortured, or arrested in the crackdown, perpetrated with “genocidal intent,” according to the UN, which has described the community as the most persecuted minority in the world.
Myanmar does not recognize the Rohingya as citizens, saying they are nationals of Bangladesh, which in turn, says they are natives of Myanmar.