Burma Times: 20 May 2015
Bangladesh on Tuesday vowed to bring human traffickers to justice as boats carrying hundreds of its nationals alongside Rohingyas from Myanmar continued to bounce between South East Asian countries as they turned them away.
“We will take immediate action against those who have trafficked people illegally. We are trying to identify and track them down,” state minister for home affairs Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said.
He said a lack of security around the 250 kilometres border region in northeastern Chittagong Hill Tracts adjacent to Myanmar and open to Bay of Bengal was largely responsible for the massive human trafficking.
Kamal said paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) were ordered to set up border outposts to prevent trafficking.
“We have decided to set up BOP (border outposts) there to bring down the problem of human trafficking… We could not set up BOP there previously because these areas are remote but I hope the problem of trafficking will be controlled after setting them up,” the minister said.
According to Kamal, the government is also working to secure the northeastern Cox’s Bazar frontier with Myanmar by issuing separate identity cards to fishermen in the Bay of Bengal to stop human trafficking.
“Separate number-plates will also be given to the goods-carrying trawlers,” he said.
Bangladesh earlier this month launched a crackdown against human traffickers. Five suspected slave traders were killed in shootouts with police along its south-eastern coastlines.
But Kamal’s comments today came amid growing international outrage against countries which denied entry of boats with migrants despite their virtual exposure to deaths.
Reports suggested that Bangladeshi and Rohingya migrants on board a foundering vessel off Indonesia fought with axes, knives and metals bars in vicious clashes that left over 100 dead while food and water dwindled on their rickety vessel as it drifted in Indonesian waters.
UN refugee agency UNHCR, rights agency OHCHR, and International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in a joint statement today urged “the leaders of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand, to protect migrants and refugees stranded on vessels in the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea, to facilitate safe disembarkation, and to give priority to saving lives, protecting rights, and respecting human dignity.”
“Nearly 1,000 are believed to have perished at sea due to the precarious conditions of the voyage, and an equal number because of mistreatment and privation at the hands of traffickers and abusive smugglers,” the statement said.