Myanmar jails 112 Rohingya who tried to leave country

State media says group, including children, sent to prison for two to five years for not having documents.

A wooden boat with a prominent bow on the beach in Aceh, Indonesia. Dozens of Rohingya travelled in the boat coming ashore in late December after weeks at sea.
The UN refugee agency says the number of dangerous boat journeys attempted by the Rohingya rose sixfold in 2022 [File: Amanda Jufrian/AFP]

Myanmar has jailed 112 people, including 12 children, from the minority Rohingya after they were caught attempting to leave the country.

The court in Bogale in the southern Ayeyarwady region of Myanmar sentenced the group on January 6, the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar reported on Tuesday, citing local police.

The group was arrested in December after they were discovered on a motorboat “without any official documents”, the report said.

Of the 12 children, five were under the age of 13 and sentenced to two years, and the older children to three years. They were transferred to a “youth training school” on Monday, according to the paper.

The adults were all jailed for five years, it added.

The mostly Muslim Rohingya are denied citizenship and other basic rights in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, which claims they are “illegal migrants” from South Asia.

Hundreds of thousands fled the country for neighbouring Bangladesh in 2017 after a brutal crackdown by the military that is now the subject of an international genocide trial.

Many of those that remain in Myanmar are confined to camps where they are subject to severe restrictions on their movement, hindering their ability to work, study or get medical assistance.

Described as the world’s most persecuted minority, Rohingya from the refugee camps in Bangladesh as well as in Myanmar continue to risk dangerous sea journeys to travel to Malaysia and Indonesia, Muslim-majority countries where they believe they will be able to lead better lives.

At least 185 Rohingya landed in Indonesia’s northernmost province of Aceh late last month after their boat drifted at sea for weeks.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says the number of Rohingya undertaking such journeys increased sixfold last year compared with 2021.

Two boats, carrying more than 200 people in total, came ashore in the northern Indonesia province of Aceh last month.

Source: Al Jazeera