Myanmar authorities have arrested 11 Rohingya Muslims who were smuggled from the troubled western Rakhine state to the country’s biggest city Yangon, an official said Thursday.
Win Naing, an officer at the Yangon Police Force, told Anadolu Agency that they were arrested by a police patrol at the Aung Mingalar Highway bus station in Yangon’s North Okalapa Township.
“These Bengalis are waiting for traffickers who will smuggle them first to the Myanmar-Thai border, then to Malaysia over land,” he said by phone on Thursday, referring to the stateless minority group with a term that suggests that they are interlopers from neighboring Bangladesh.
Tens of thousands of Rohingya -- described by the United Nations as among the most persecuted minority groups worldwide -- have fled their homes in Rakhine since October, when Myanmar's military launched a crackdown that has attracted severe international criticism of its brutality.
Security forces have been accused of gang-rape, killings, beatings, disappearances and burning villages in the Maungdaw area of northern Rakhine since October.
Win Naing added that the men were smuggled by traffickers who were ethnic Rakhines from the Rakhine state to Yangon over land, and that they are searching for the traffickers in cooperation with the Rakhine Police Force.
The 11 middle-age Rohingya men will be charged for “illegal intrusion” under the Residents of Burma Registration Act (1949) and Myanmar’s Penal Code, he said.
Last October, after being arrested in Yangon, 18 trafficked Rohingya men were sentenced to two years in prison on the same charges, while four underage Rohingya were ordered to spend two years at a training school for boys.
Rohingya have been fleeing Myanmar in droves since mid-2012 after communal violence broke out in Rakhine between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya.
The violence left around 57 Muslims and 31 Buddhists dead, some 100,000 people displaced in camps, and more than 2,500 houses razed -- most of which belonged to Rohingya.
For years, members of the minority have been using Thailand as a transit point to enter Muslim Malaysia and beyond.
A law passed in Myanmar in 1982 denied Rohingya -- many of whom have lived in Myanmar for generations -- citizenship, making them stateless, removing their freedom of movement, access to education and services, and allowing for arbitrary confiscation of their property.