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Iran Press TV

Myanmar ships Rohingya prisoners back to Rakhine amid pandemic

Iran Press TV

Monday, 20 April 2020 4:35 PM

Myanmar has shipped more than 800 recently released Rohingya prisoners back to the restive western state of Rakhine, where most members of the persecuted Muslim minority live under tight movement restrictions.

The state immigration department chief Soe Lwin told media outlets on Monday that over 600 of the group disembarked near the state capital Sittwe, while another 200 were taken further north to townships on the border with Bangladesh.

"They will be quarantined."

Men, women and children belonging to the Muslim minority were among nearly 25,000 prisoners freed last week.

Myanmar's biggest prisoner release in years came amid fears that its overcrowded prisons could become hotbeds for runaway coronavirus outbreaks.

The World Health Organization (WHO) had already warned that prison populations are particularly vulnerable to the spread of the COVID-19 disease.

Human Rights Watch has sounded alarm about Myanmar's "horribly overcrowded and unsanitary" jails.

Myanmar has only 111 confirmed COVID-19 cases but experts fear the real number is many times higher because of the low numbers tested and the chronically underfunded healthcare system.

Pressure is also on Myanmar to improve its treatment of the Rohingya, after a bloody military crackdown in 2017 sent thousands fleeing into Bangladesh and prompted 'genocide' charges at the UN's top court.

Rakhine has been the scene of an organized deadly crackdown on Muslims by Myanmar's army and Buddhist mobs since 2012.

In 2017, a military-led crackdown in Myanmar, which UN investigators have said was conducted with "genocidal intent," prompted about 750,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh, which was already hosting some 200,000 Rohingya when the exodus began.

Thousands are suspected to have been killed in the crackdown and refugees brought widespread reports of rape and arson by Myanmar's military and local Buddhist militias.

Thousands still remain in Myanmar under apartheid-like conditions, confined to camps and villages and denied access to healthcare and education.

Rakhine has been the scene of an organized deadly crackdown on Muslims by Myanmar's army and Buddhist mobs since 2012.



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