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Myanmar jails 112 Rohingya, including children, for attempting to flee crackdown on Muslims

Hundreds of Rohingya Muslims, persecuted in Myanmar, make perilous journeys to reach Malaysia and Indonesia. (Reuters Archive)

Myanmar authorities have sentenced 112 minority Rohingya Muslims, including a dozen children, to prison terms for attempting to travel to Malaysia “without legal documents”, state media reported.

They were arrested last month in the southern Ayeyarwady region and sentenced on January 6, according to a report published by the Global New Light of Myanmar, citing local police officials.

The detained children were on Sunday transferred to a “youth training school” near the country’s largest city and commercial hub Yangon, the newspaper reported, without providing further details.

The report referred to the group as “Bengalis”, a pejorative word used for the persecuted Muslim minority, who are denied citizenship in Buddhist-majority Myanmar and often require permission to travel.

Myanmar refuses to recognize the Rohingya as citizens, denying them basic human rights while officials even refrain from using the word ‘Rohingya,’ which means a native of Rakhine, a state in Myanmar where they had lived for centuries before the state-sponsored violence began in 2017.

In 2017, Buddhist extremists supported by the Myanmar regime led a horrific military-led crackdown against the Rohingya community, forcing more than 750,000 Rohingya to leave their homes and take refuge in neighboring countries.

Thousands of Rohingya Muslims were reportedly massacred, raped and tortured while children were thrown into raging fires.

More than 390 villages were either partly or completely destroyed, largely by fire, including 40 percent of all villages in Rakhine.

Over the past five years, thousands of Rohingya refugees have risked their lives to reach Muslim-majority Malaysia and Indonesia in an effort to start a new life with basic human rights.

According to Indonesian authorities, a wooden boat carrying more than 200 Rohingya refugees, a majority of them women and children, arrived on the western coast on Sunday, the fifth since November.

The United Nations has described the community as the most persecuted minority in the world.

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