Myanmar: Authorities Complicit in Rohingya Trafficking, Smuggling
End Persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State
(Yangon, November 7, 2014)— Myanmar state security forces are complicit in and profiting from the increasingly lucrative maritime human trafficking and smuggling of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar’s Rakhine State, Fortify Rights revealed in a briefing released today.
Since 2012, Myanmar state security forces in Rakhine State have collected payments from Rohingya asylum seekers fleeing Myanmar by ships operated by transnational criminal syndicates, according to information obtained by Fortify Rights. In some cases, the Myanmar Navy escorted boats operated by criminal gangs out to international waters.
“Not only are the authorities making life so intolerable for Rohingya that they’re forced to flee, but they’re also profiting from the exodus,” said Matthew Smith, executive director of Fortify Rights. “This is a regional crisis that’s worsening while Myanmar authorities are treating it like a perverse payday.”
Local Rohingya brokers mostly deliver payments to members of the Lon Thein riot police, Myanmar Police Department, Navy, and Army in amounts ranging from 500,000 kyat ($500 USD) to 600,000 kyat ($600 USD) per shipload of Rohingya asylum seekers in exchange for passage out to sea. In one case documented by Fortify Rights, the Myanmar Navy demanded 7-million kyat ($7,000 USD) from a criminal gang operating a ship filled with Rohingya fleeing to Malaysia. In other cases, members of the Myanmar Police Department took up to 15,000 kyat ($15 USD) per person directly from individual Rohingya passengers.
Trafficking in persons is prohibited under international law, and states have a duty to take action to combat trafficking. Human trafficking includes elements of deceit, exploitation, and abuse. Human smuggling, on the other hand, involves a “client” consenting and paying to be transported across an international border.