Boats with migrants waiting to enter Malaysia

Source: The Malay Mail Online

Migrants from Bangladesh carry their belongings as they cross the Myanmar-Bangladesh friendship bridge in Taungpyo, Rakhine on Monday. — Reuters pic
Migrants from Bangladesh carry their belongings as they cross the Myanmar-Bangladesh friendship bridge in Taungpyo, Rakhine on Monday. — Reuters pic

SATUN (Thailand), June 10 — Several boats operated by human trafficking syndicates carrying migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh are in international waters near the southern Thailand town of Satun waiting to enter Malaysia or to sail to Indonesia.

A senior officer from the Satun coast guard station at Pulau Puyu said they had been monitoring the boats in international waters for more than a week.

“We are monitoring them as we cannot react unless they cross into our waters at which time we will alert the Navy and marine police to take immediate action,” he told Malay Mail.

He believed the boats would have sailed from Myanmar and Bangladesh before news of the crackdown by the authorities reached the remote villages. Unaware of the latest developments, the migrants would have left their homeland in search of greener pastures.

He said each boat carried between 300 and 500 people.

A 42-year-old Myanmar national, who declined to be named, said the boats took between 30 and 40 days from Myanmar to reach Satun depending on weather conditions.

“There were five or six boats at a time berthed in Pulau Puyu, until the crackdown by Thai authorities early last month following the discovery of the mass graves at the Malaysia-Thailand border.”

He named a man called Yassin as a powerful and influential kingpin in Satun, besides Alwa and Pa Chuban Hanshotipan, who was nabbed early last month.

Kuala Perlis is about 15 minutes away from Pulau Puyu, while Langkawi is 40 minutes away from Satun.

A Malay Mail team entered Wang Prachat from the Wang Kelian checkpoint in Perlis and travelled 40 minutes by road to reach the fishing village of Satun. The team then drove for 15 minutes to a jetty and proceeded on a 20-minute journey to Pulau Puyu.

Fisherman Imran Gafur, 45, said four boatloads of migrants were still anchored near the island about 10 days earlier until authorities removed them.

“Boats carrying Myanmar and Bangladesh migrants have been landing here for a decade and we thought they wanted to go to Malaysia. The villagers were not aware that syndicates were taking money to transport them, until the exposure of mass graves recently.

“The villagers sympathise with the migrants. Now we realise that they are innocent people who were tortured, abused and the women were gang-raped by agents. We do not condone cruelty against another human being,” he said.

Another villager identified as Pa Mat, 45, said the villages in the nearby islands were controlled by Pa Chuban, who bribed everybody in the village to run his illegal activities. He had many loyal agents including fishermen who would alert the syndicate if strangers headed to Pulau Puyu and surrounding islands.

“It was risky for outsiders until the recent crackdown,” he said.

Solehin Langlut, 30, said Alwa and several village heads had fled Satun.

“Every village head was financially taken care of and nothing moved without Alwa’s knowledge,’’ he said.

Migrants who landed in the mangrove forest walked to the foothills and climbed the hills to enter Perlis.

Pulau Puyu has a population of 2,000. The nearby islands are Pulau Panjang, Pulau Kunjit, Pulau Laksamana and Pulau Kerap.



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