Voyagers to Malaysia resume their journeys

Source from Kaladan Press, Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh: Since December 18, voyagers heading to Malaysia, mostly Rohingya people from Arakan State and Bangladesh, have resumed their journeys from Bangladesh, said a local from Shapuri Dip who prefers not to be named.

On December 18, nearly 67 such voyagers set out towards Malaysia in wooden boats from the Shapuri Dip coastline in Bangladesh while the sea was calm. They hope to eventually reach Thailand, Indonesia, India or Malaysia.

The captain of the boats is Hela Luddin, a Bangladeshi who hails from Monda Bill village of Sa Pyin Union in Cox’s Bazaar district.

Most of the boats’ passengers are Rohingyas who recently crossed the Burma-Bangladesh border and stayed in Shapuri Dip in local houses after paying Taka 200 per day for food and accommodation.

In addition, on December 19, another boat with 30 people, including Rohingyas and Bengalis, departed for Malaysia but was stranded at the Nazira Point of Cox’s Bazaar on December 20 after its engine had trouble. It left for Malaysia from the Bakkhali River of Chowkoria Union in Cox’s Bazaar, said a local from Cox’s Bazaar who declined to give his name.

After receiving information, the police of Cox’s Bazaar Town arrested the 30 boat people on December 20. The travelers were brought to the police station and detained for further questioning.

Mohamed Shahjan, the officer in charge of the Mordern Police Station, confirmed that the police were not able to arrest the trafficker as he successfully fled from the scene as the police arrived.

The stranded boat people are originally from Cox’s Bazaar, Teknaf, Ukyiya, Chowkoria, and Chatkhaniya, and some are from Burma, the police said.

Following the incident, the Bangladesh-Burma border was strengthened by the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), said a trader from Teknaf, a border town.

The traffickers collected Kyat 15,000–25,000 per head from those who wanted to go to Malaysia by sea, said one of the relatives of the boat people.

If the local Bangladeshi authorities do not stop boat people from attempting risky journeys to Malaysia along the sea route, the travelers could face more difficulties, a human rights worker said.

The Rohingyas have the unfortunate distinction of being the most devastated people in Burma. Rohingya people have been the target of abuse by the Burmese military for decades.

At present, Rohingya people are facing an increased risk of state violence and coercion after a barbed wire fence was constructed along the Burma-Bangladesh border. In relation to the fence, incidences of forced labor and other abuses have increased, said a businessman from Maungdaw who prefers not to be named.

A villager elder from northern Arakan State said, “People leave the country because of arbitrary arrests, torture and extortion, movement restrictions, forced labor, and joblessness.”

In Bangladesh unregistered refugees are not allowed to go out from their camps to work to support their family members. Therefore, refugees want to go to Malaysia, taking risks in wooden boats, said a refugee leader.

In 2009, thousands of Rohingya people fled Burma in search of a better life and because of persecution, such as denial of citizenship and tight restrictions on movement, employment and religious freedom. Many of them made it across the dangerous sea, crossing over in crowded boats to Thailand where they were housed in camps.

However, other boat people were towed out to deep sea without engines, food, or water and set adrift by Thai authorities. They were also tortured and beaten up. Hundreds are thought to have died as a result.

Despite the difficulties and dangers, on January 15 of this year, about 60 boat people already left for Malaysia in wooden boats from Cox’s Bazaar coastline in Bangladesh. Another boat with 80 boat people left for Malaysia from Cox’s Bazaar on January 30.

“Every year, traffickers are organizing voyages to Malaysia and sending people towards Malaysia by deadly sea routes with small boats and more people. Sometimes the traffickers trick the voyagers, dropping them inside Bangladesh but saying they have reached Malaysia,” said a member of a watch group for boat people.

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