COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh (Reuters) – Bangladeshi police prevented dozens of Rohingya Muslims, most of them women, about to be trafficked to Malaysia by boat, authorities said on Tuesday.
Traffickers had picked up at least 69 Rohingya from refugee camps in the Cox’s Bazar district, promising them work in Malaysia where many Rohingya already live, police said.
Scores of Rohingya Muslims have boarded boats in recent months to try to reach Malaysia, part of what authorities fear could be a new wave of people smuggling by sea after a 2015 crackdown on trafficking.
An estimated 25,000 Rohingya crossed the Andaman Sea for Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia in 2015, many drowning in unsafe and overloaded boats.
“After getting information from a secret source, our team carried out an operation last night and rescued them,” police officer Abul Khair told Reuters, adding that there were 43 women and 11 children. They would be returned to camps.
Police did not arrest any traffickers.
More than 700,000 Rohingya crossed into Bangladesh in 2017 fleeing an army crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, according to U.N. agencies.
Buddhist-majority Myanmar regards Rohingya as illegal migrants from the Indian subcontinent and has confined tens of thousands to sprawling camps in Rakhine violence swept the area in 2012.
(Reporting by Mohammad Nurul Islam in COX’S BAZAR; Writing by Serajul Qaudir; Editing by Krishna N. Das and Nick Macfie)