BANGKOK: Nineteen Rohingya and a Thai woman accused of housing them have been arrested for illegal entry to Thailand, police said Saturday, as concerns grow about trafficking routes for the Muslim minority fleeing Myanmar.
The embattled Rohingya have long faced persecution in Myanmar, where they are denied freedom of movement and citizenship, and lack access to work, healthcare and schools. A 2017 military crackdown in western Rakhine state sent almost 750,000 fleeing across the border to Bangladesh, while many choose to embark on treacherous journeys with human smugglers to reach Malaysia and Indonesia, sometimes going through Thailand. Thai police said the latest trafficking operation was discovered this week when 19 Rohingya were found in a house in Bangkok's Don Mueang district.
"Police also managed to arrest one Thai woman in Pathum Thani province (near Bangkok) on the charge of providing shelter to the Rohingya," Colonel Kissana Phathanacharoen, the deputy police spokesman, told AFP. The group was smuggled into Thailand overland from Rakhine state and was bound for Malaysia, said an immigration officer who declined to be named.