Myanmar immigration authorities on Tuesday stopped yet another boat believed to be carrying Rohingya Muslims bound for Malaysia, detaining all 93 aboard.
Fishermen outside Dawei, in southeastern Thanintharyi, reported a “suspicious” boat to authorities, Moe Zaw Latt, director of the government office in Dawei, told Reuters.
“They said they ran away from the camp. They said they intended to go to Malaysia,” Moe told the wire service, referencing the Thae Chaung Camp in Sittwe, Rakhine State, to which they will now be returned.
This is the third vessel stopped by authorities in Myanmar waters since the end of the monsoon season, when the weather is calmer and migrants are more likely to risk their lives on perilous voyage to neighboring countries.
Thanintharyi deputy police chief U Sein Win, told VOA the boat is currently off the coast of San Lan, Laung Lone Township.
“Ministry of Immigration officials are investigating the issue. After that, we will inform the Union Government about our findings. We will follow what they tell us to do,” he told the outlet.
Authorities found 28 men, 33 women and 32 children on the vessel.
Earlier this month, more than 100 Rohingya Muslims were detained by authorities after their vessel were stopped by immigration officials some 30 km southeast of central Yangon. Just days earlier, reports of boats attempting to leave western Rakhine state surfaced as well.
The three incidents raise the possibility of a dangerous repeat of 2015, when hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims fled en masse in a number of dangerous boat voyages to neighboring Southeast Asian countries.
An estimated 720,000 Rohingya Muslims fled to neighboring Bangladesh since August 2017 amid a brutal military campaign of rape, murder and pillage.
Myanmar has consistently denied most allegations, insisting that what they term “clearance operations” were a response to terrorist attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA). However, a Fortify Rights report has alleged that preparations for what has been called ethnic cleansing were made prior to the ARSA attacks.
After a recent embarrassing failed repatriation effort, in which no Rohingya voluntarily returned to Myanmar from camps in Bangladesh, repatriation efforts will be postponed to 2019, after the Bangladeshi national elections.