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Over 100 migrants from Arakan arrested

Dec 11, 2008 (DVB), More than one hundred people were arrested at Rangoon's Thilawa port on 8 December as they were being transported from Arakan state, according to eyewitnesses.

The group members, who included a number of Muslims, had each paid 60,000 kyat for the journey to agents who had promised them employment when they reached their destination, according to sources close to the group.

While the boat driver and passengers were arrested by soldiers, the boat owner and the agents who had organised the trip were not detained.

The group was arrested for not having national identity cards, although all those detained were carrying the white ID cards which were issued in advance of the constitutional referendum in May.

They were temporarily detained on the Nawarat housing estate in Aungchantha ward, Thanlyin, across the Rangoon river from Thilawa, eyewitnesses said.

When DVB contacted the local police station an officer on duty confirmed that 108 people in total had been arrested and said they had now been transferred to Insein prison.

Thanlyin township immigration office is planning to prosecute them under the Immigration Act because they were reportedly planning to go to Thailand until a storm swept them into Rangoon harbour, the officer said.

A resident of Taunggok claimed that local authorities and agents in Arakan state had been collaborating to make money from Muslims in Arakan state, who face severe restrictions on their freedom of movement.

The Taunggok resident said victims of human trafficking were often arrested and more than 100 people were currently being detained in Thandwe jail.

"Agents and immigration people in Sittwe, Kyaukpyu, Buthidaung, Maungdaw areas cooperate and ‘carry’ people," the resident said.

"No authority organisation recognises these people as Burmese citizens," he said.

"They are being imprisoned without trial."

The Muslim minority in Arakan state, generally known as Rohingyas, are not only denied permission to travel but also deprived of proper medical, educational and economic assistance.

Human rights organisation Amnesty International reports that Rohingyas also face extortion, forced displacement, land confiscation and forced labour.

Reporting by Naw Say Phaw

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