Court in Ayeyarwady region sentences 56 Rohingya to 2 years in prison

The group, including three children, was refused visits from locals offering food and assistance.

A court in Myanmar’s Ayeyarwady region has sentenced 56 ethnic Rohingya to two years in prison.

They were arrested on Aug. 21 in Wakema township and the sentences were handed down by the township’s court on Tuesday under Section 6 (3) of the Residents Registration Act.

The group came from Buthidaung and Maungdaw townships in Rakhine State.

They decided to leave due to a lack of jobs in their townships and the hardships of living there.

The group comprised 30 men, including three boys, and 26 women.

The children were sent to a youth detention center in Twantay township, Yangon region. The adults were sent to Myaungmya Prison in Ayeyarwady region, according to people who volunteered to assist the Rohingya while they were in custody.

A Wakema resident who offered to help the group, and who declined to be named for safety reasons, told RFA the township administration and its judicial department made the decision to detain the Rohingya and later refused to allow visitors.

“At first, we could assist them with food,” the volunteer said. “I haven’t been able to see them since last week. I can’t go to court anymore. Even if we wanted to give food or other things, we couldn’t give them directly. That was carried out by administration officials. We don’t know much about the details.”

RFA’s calls to the State Administration Council’s Minister of Social Affairs Khin Maung Than, who is the spokesman for Ayeyarwady region, went unanswered Thursday.

Sources close to the court said the 56 were the first group of Rohingya in Ayeyarwady region to be prosecuted under the 1949 Union of Myanmar Residents Registration Act. Previous groups were prosecuted only under immigration law.

Ayeyarwady region lies directly south of Rakhine State and many Rohingya enter the region as they try to seek refuge there or reach Malaysia.

At the end of August six bodies were found, along with 59 Rohingya survivors, on a boat floating near an island off the Ayeyarwady delta region. The survivors were detained by local police.

Rohingya arrests continue

Also on Tuesday, 19 Rohingya residents from Minbya, Kyauktaw, Mrauk-U and Buthidaung townships in Rakhine state were arrested in Ayeyarwady region’s Mindon township.

Nearly 800 Rohingya have been arrested across Myanmar between Dec. 2021 and Sept. 6, 2022, according to data compiled by RFA based on local reports and local news sources.

A bloody crackdown by the Burmese military that started on Aug. 25, 2017 led to more than 740,000 Rohingya fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh, where they have spent the last five years sheltering in refugee camps.

Of the more than 600,000 Rohingya who stayed in Myanmar an estimated 125,000 have been confined to open-air camps in Rakhine State.