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The crew of a boat carrying more than 200 migrants that was intercepted by the Burmese navy off the coast of Maungdaw last week have been remanded in detention as officials seek to bring slavery charges against them.
Aung Kyaw Nyunt, a Maungdaw high court attorney, told DVB that officials are lining up charges against the crew under Penal Code Article 367 for abducting people with intent to subject them to slavery, and Article 371, for habitual dealing in slaves.
Fifteen of the 20 crewmembers hail from southern Burma’s Tenasserim Division, with the other five individuals from Arakan State, Rangoon Division and Irrawaddy Division.
“They are currently under interrogation. Charges will be pressed accordingly afterwards. Right now, we are seeking two charges under the penal code – articles 367 and 371, for abducting people with the intent to subject them to slavery, and the habitual dealing in slaves,” said Aung Kyaw Nyunt.
“As there was no concept of human trafficking back when the Penal Code was written, the term ‘slavery’ was used. Instead, in modern terms, it refers to human trafficking,” he said.
Burmese government reports say that the boat carrying the migrants is registered to a Thai national who lives in southern Thailand’s Ranong Province. The owner of a smaller supply boat has been named as Ko Khine from Tenasserim’s Mergui, also known as Myeik.
Tin Maung Swe, secretary of the Arakan State government, said that the 208 Bangladeshi migrants found on the boat on 21 May are currently sheltering in Maungdaw Township’s Taung Pyo and are being verified by the Bangladeshi consul.
“They will be dealt with in accordance with international law. They have admitted to the United Nations’ special envoy Mr Vijay Nambiar that they are indeed Bangladeshi nationals, and have also confirmed this to the consul,” said Tin Maung Swe.
The migrant crisis of recent weeks, which stemmed from the discovery of grim migrant camps in southern Thailand, has seen thousands of Bangladeshi and ethnic Rohingya migrants from Burma abandoned by their smugglers.