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Myanmar tightens security after boat people flee camp

By Kyaw Ye Lynn
December 22, 2015

Myanmar says 28 escapees are Bangladeshis who would be repatriated after authorities in neighboring country verified their citizenship

Yangon, Myanmar -- Myanmar authorities have tightened security at a town in western Rakhine state after the boat people remaining at a camp in Maungtaw Township fled last week, according to officials Monday.

An official from Rakhine’s immigration department who wished to remain unnamed as he was not authorized to speak to media told Anadolu Agency that 28 people, who authorities say are from neighboring Bangladesh, escaped the temporary camp.

“All 28 boat people including women and children fled the camp last week. We informed Bangladesh authorities about it,” he said by phone.

He added that authorities do not know whether the escapees were still in Myanmar or had crossed the border. 

“They frequently asked us to send them back to their country as they don’t want to be here anymore, but the Bangladesh authority is working slowly,” he said.

Myanmar has already repatriated 777 people to the neighboring country after Bangladeshi officials verified their citizenship.

They were among 1,046 people rescued at sea and from an island in southern Myanmar in May amid a crisis that saw thousands of Bangladeshi and Muslim Rohingya – an ethnicity Myanmar does not officially recognize -- abandoned by people smugglers.

According to Myanmar authorities, 851 of those rescued are Bangladeshi, and the others are “Bengali” – a term the government uses for Rohingya to imply they are interlopers from Bangladesh.

The immigration official said Monday that another 46 people had previously fled the camp near the small town of Taung Pyo, just a few kilometers from the border with Bangladesh.

“We repatriated 48 boat people to Bangladesh on Dec. 2 as the seventh round. These 28 people were the last remaining in the camp.”

Nay Myo, head of Rakhine police, told Anadolu Agency that security has been tightened in Maungtaw since last week’s escape.

“Because we don’t want unnecessary troubles in the area where the situation is not stable yet,” he said, referring to a series of communal violence between Buddhist Rakhine and Rohingya that has left more than a hundred people dead and thousands homeless – mostly among the minority -- since mid-2012.

Thousands of migrants, mostly Rohingya and Bangladeshis, have been migrating to Southeast Asian countries, often using the services of people smugglers or traffickers.

Thousands were left stranded at sea after a Thai crackdown on people smugglers in May scared gang leaders into abandoning boats crowded with men, women and children.

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