At least 35 of the 112 people held in the southeastern township of Bogale have been sentenced to five years in jail for travelling "without official documents".

Persecuted in Myanmar, hundreds of Rohingya make perilous voyages by sea on small boats to reach Muslim-majority Malaysia and Indonesia.
Persecuted in Myanmar, hundreds of Rohingya make perilous voyages by sea on small boats to reach Muslim-majority Malaysia and Indonesia. (Susana Vera / Reuters Archive)

Myanmar authorities have arrested more than 110 Rohingya, including children, for travelling "without official documents" as they tried to make their way to Malaysia.

Local media reported on Friday that a total of 112 people, including a dozen children, were arrested in the southeastern township of Bogale. 

Reports said a local court promptly handed five-year prison terms to 35 of the arrested people.

The report, which identified the group by the pejorative "Bengalis", gave no date for the arrests, but a local newspaper quoted police sources as saying they took place the morning of December 20.

A local court sentenced 35 of the group to five years in jail for travelling without documents, the Global New Light reported, adding that 13 under the age of 18 would be detained at a "training school" until they were 20.

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Widely viewed as interlopers from Bangladesh, members of the mostly Muslim minority group are denied citizenship - along with access to healthcare and education - and often require permission to travel.

Perilous journeys 

More than 700,000 Rohingya, concentrated in the western state of Rakhine, fled to refugee camps in Bangladesh after a brutal 2017 counterinsurgency campaign conducted by the government in response to attacks by a Rohingya insurgent group. 

They fled to escape security forces in Myanmar who were accused of mass rapes, killings and the burning of thousands of homes.

Difficult conditions in the Bangladesh refugee camps have driven groups of Rohingya to try to escape to Malaysia and Indonesia, more prosperous Southeast Asian nations with Muslim majorities.

Many attempts to make the perilous voyage by sea on small boats, but others go overland, travelling by road on a route that takes them first to Myanmar’s biggest city of Yangon and then onward to Thailand and finally Malaysia, even though they may be detained there.

Myanmar faces genocide accusations at the United Nation's top court following the mass exodus.

Thirteen Rohingya were found dead on a roadside near Hlegu town near the commercial hub Yangon on December 5. 

Myanmar police later arrested 12 suspected members of a human-trafficking gang linked to the deaths.

A Rohingya source and local media said the group had been travelling inside an oil tanker linked to the gang.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies