20 sentenced in Arakan for trafficking boatpeople

20 sentenced in Arakan for trafficking boatpeople

Twenty members of a human trafficking ring, facing charges in connection with a migrant ship that was intercepted off the Arakan coast last month, were each handed five years in prison on Monday by Maungdaw township court.

Aung Kyaw Nyunt, a court attorney in the predominantly Rohingya town, said the smuggling ring, including crew members and interpreters, was apprehended with 208 people on board in May. He said they were sentenced under the Immigration Act, and would also face additional human trafficking charges along with five other ‘fugitives’.

“The group of 20 individuals on the ship, including crew members and interpreters, were each sentenced to five years in prison under the Immigration Act by Maungdaw township court,” said Aung Kyaw Nyunt.

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“They are also facing additional human trafficking charges at the district court along with five other individuals who are on the run and have been declared fugitives.”

He said the 20 found guilty on Monday included residents from Rangoon, Irrawaddy and Tenasserim divisions and Arakan State, and that they were currently being detained in Buthidaung prison.

The vessel carrying migrants, which intended journeying to Malaysia or Indonesia, was intercepted by the Burmese navy off the coast in Maungdaw on 21 May after it was forced to make a turnaround due to heavy naval patrols in the Strait of Malacca.

To date, the Burmese government has repatriated 187 migrants from that ship who were verified as Bangladeshi nationals.

Arakan State government spokesperson Tin Maung Swe told DVB the officials are continuing to verify the origins of the remaining boatpeople.

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