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Nine Muslim children from Rakhine State arrested in Yangon

By Nyan Lynn Aung
August 27, 2015

On August 22, police in Yangon’s Hmawbi township arrested 10 Muslim internally displaced people from Rakhine State camps, including nine children. They are being detained for entering Yangon illegally.

Police in Yangon conduct an evening inspection as part of a plan to ramp up security before the election. (Zarni Phyo/The Myanmar Times)

According to immigration officials, the police stopped a drunk driver during one of the evening inspections meant to step-up security ahead of the election. The 10 passengers crammed into the back of the Probox turned out to be unable to speak Myanmar and were pulled aside.

All but one of those arrested are children. The police remain unsure of what to do with the minors who range in age from 16 years old to just seven.

“We were planning to send them to the juvenile detention centre, but it is not safe for them. And they could escape if we sent them there,” U Than Naing, an officer from the Hmawbi township immigration department told The Myanmar Times.

“So far, we are keeping them at the police station while we wait for the suggestion of a lawyer.”

Police have opened an illegal entry case against Daw Khin Saw Win, 42, who is the mother of one of the detained 15-year-olds, and the grandmother of the 7-year-old, according to the immigration office.

All 10 had agreed to pay K1 million (US$780) each to a broker who promised to arrange them jobs in Yangon so they could work off the debt, according to investigating police. They left IDP camps in Sittwe township, which were erected after sectarian riots displaced over 140,000 Muslim residents. The IDPs face extreme restrictions on their movements, while food, jobs and healthcare are in scarce supply at the camps. According to the United Nations, the Rohingya camp residents – whom the government calls Bengalis – face a policy of institutionalised discrimination.

According to the driver’s account, in addition to the 10 “Bengalis” arrested in Hmawbi township, another 19 were also part of the group that initially left Sittwe with the broker. At a stop along Highway 4 between Sittwe and Yangon, 11 passengers stayed behind, while eight other people got into two separate sedans that also made their way to Yangon.

“The driver said the other cars passed his car before he reached the checkpoint,” said U Naing Naing Nyein, police captain of Hmawbi police station. ”However, we did not see the car licence plate numbers which he reported coming either in or out of the toll gate. We checked the CCTV record.”

U Naing Naing Nyein added that police are trying to locate the broker as well as the other 19 passengers.

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