Burma Times Correspondent
Once again human traffickers are sending their agents into the Rohingya refugee neighbourhoods in Bangladesh to recruit passengers as the monsoos season draws to an end.
The journey by rickety boats to Malaysia is riven with danger and only possible once the monsoon season is over. This time, the pre monsoon season coincided with a crackdown initiated by Thailand and other countries in the region leading to the boat people crisis that highlighted the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims all over the world. The attention forced human traffickers to lay beneath the radar from May.
However activities by the criminals suggest they are about to come back. Our correspondents disguised as passengers spoke to human traffickers in the Teknaf town of Bangladesh. The traffickers promised them a smooth journey in exchange of 160,000 taka. They also blasted the media for telling lies about the traffickers and dismissed the notion about the existence of jungle camps in Thailand where the refugees are tortured for ransom and women raped.
They also promised them good treatment on board of the ship. The traffickers told our correspondents that the crisis was only created by the crackdown of the authorities and they would try their best to protect their passengers as it was in their interest to do so. They repeatedly dismissed claims of torture and murder on board as lies.
One thing would be different from previous times, they said, it would not be possible for the passengers to board from Bangladesh waters. But the traffickers would arrange for them to go overland to Burma and then board the ship from there. The traffickers also said they had good connections with the BGP forces and there was no risk of arrest there. Bangladesh would of course not stop Rohingyas (or Bengalis disguised as Rohingyas) from going back to their own country and as a result there was zero fear of getting caught in this part of the world.
The only obstacle would be the Thai and Malaysian authorities and the traffickers said they were experts in evading the South East Asians. Also the passengers would not have to pay until they were safely in Malaysian soil.
The traffickers said they were once common passengers who had become involved in this business. They claimed to have boarded their ship from the Akyab region. Our correspondents say due to increased vigilance of Bangladesh authorities, they are less visibly active than before.