Myanmar jails 112 Rohingya refugees and transfers children to ‘youth training school’

Myanmar has sentenced 112 Rohingya refugees to prison for travelling to the country “without legal documents”, its state media said.

Among those sentenced are at least a dozen children who were given a jail term between two and three years. The adults were sentenced to five years in prison.

Police said the group of Rohingya refugees were arrested last month in Myanmar’s southern Ayeyarwady region.

The refugees were referred to as “Bengalis” – a pejorative used by the Myanmar junta to refer to the minority community that is denied citizenship in the country – in a report published in the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper on Tuesday.

It said the refugees included 12 children and 47 women who “without any official documents, entered by motorboat and were arrested near Kadonlay island in Bogale township”.

The report said the court sentenced five children aged under 13 to two years in prison, seven children aged above 13 to three years and the rest – 53 men and 47 women – to five years in prison each.

On 8 January, all the children were sent from the Pyapon prison to the Hnget-Aw-San Youth Training School in Kawhmu township of Yangon region, according to the state media report.

In August 2017, Myanmar’s authorities began attacks against Rohingya civilians in the Rakhine state. The country has faced accusations of genocide against the minority community that the junta has denied.

“Myanmar forces planned and executed attacks that resulted in the widespread and targeted killing of Rohingya civilians including systematic sexual violence and the looting, burning and razing of entire villages,” according to the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR.

Myanmar’s forces have reportedly killed thousands of Rohingya and forced over 700,000 to flee for their lives to Bangladesh.

More than one million Rohingya survivors live in Bangladesh, in camps in the Cox’s Bazaar and Bhasan Char areas.

Every year, thousands of Rohingya risk their lives to journey from camps in Bangladesh and Myanmar to reach Muslim-majority countries Malaysia and Indonesia.

On Sunday, a boat with 185 Rohingya refugees landed on the shores of Indonesia’s Aceh province, following hundreds who arrived late last year fleeing poor conditions in refugee camps in Bangladesh.

Late last year, a number of Rohingya men reached Indonesia after a long journey on a battered boat. According to a UNHCR spokesperson, nearly 200 Rohingya were already feared dead or missing at sea in 2022.