Burma Times Correspondent: October 6, 2015
Many Rohingya refugees have boarded a human trafficking ship on the second and third day of Eid ul Adha from the Bangladesh tourist spot of St Martin’s Island in one of the first voyages this season.
The island, a popular destination for Bangladeshi tourists was extremely crowded during the Eid festival. Taking advantage of the situation, many Rohingya refugees and human traffickers posing as tourists boarded the ship bound for South East Asia.
According to informed sources, the traffickers are ‘testing the waters’ before human trafficking begins on a large scale. Traditionally, the boats start leaving in October once the seas calm down after monsoon.
But analysts say this time around, the traffickers are beginning by transporting only small numbers of people to test the resolve of Malaysia and Thailand, the two South East Asian nations who might be more vigilant in combating human traffickers.
Chris Lewa, coordinator of Arakan Project told UCA news, “…with Thailand closed, it will not be like it was in the other seasons. I think we will see test boats first. If they are successful, more will come.”
There are also concerns that traffickers will utilise Bangladesh where authorities have failed to prosecute trafficking cases.
Traffickers based in the border town of Teknaf are however saying they prefer Myanmar as the boarding point as the authorities are more involved in the trade and less susceptible than Bangladesh to international pressure to crack down on traffickers.
However the journey from St Martin’s Island shows the traffickers are also testing Bangladeshi waters as they ae testing Malaysian and Thai determination.
Bangladesh media says many in their country including police officials and local politicians are involved in the deadly trade but unlike Thailand and Malaysia, few have faced prosecution.