Malaysia says 41 Rohingya land up north, 200 still at sea

In this undated handout photo released April 8, 2019, dozens of people, believed to be Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar who were dropped off from a boat are pictured on a beach near Sungai Belati, Perlis, Malaysia. (Malaysia Royal Police via AP)
Updated 08 April 2019

Malaysia says 41 Rohingya land up north, 200 still at sea

  • The 41 men have been handed over to the immigration department as they have no valid travel documents
  • More than 700,000 ethnic Rohingya have fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh since August 2017

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian police said Monday that 41 Muslim Rohingya men and boys have been detained in the northernmost state of Perlis, the second group to land in the country in just over a month, and that some 200 others are still believed to be at sea.
Perlis police chief Noor Mushar Mohamad said the group, ranging in age from 14 to 30, landed early Monday on the same beach where 34 Rohingya women and children were found stranded March 2.
Noor Mushar said one of the men told police that they were part of over 200 Rohingya in a large boat that sailed overnight from Thailand, and that 47 of them were transferred to a smaller boat to Perlis after they paid 4,000 ringgit ($977) each to a trafficker. He said the group walked in mud to reach the beach and subsequently fanned out in smaller groups into the villages when their local agent failed to turn up.
Based on the information, he said some 200 Rohingya are believed to still be at sea in Thai waters while six others who landed in Malaysia are missing.
More than 700,000 ethnic Rohingya have fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh since August 2017, when a group of militants attacked Myanmar security forces, triggering a massive retaliation by Myanmar’s army. The exodus came after hundreds of thousands of other Rohingya escaped previous bouts of violence and persecution. Myanmar rights groups have said that many Rohingya are also being tricked by traffickers into leaving Bangladesh after being warned they may face death if repatriated to Myanmar.
Noor Mushar said the 41 men have been handed over to the immigration department as they have no valid travel documents. He said he would inform his Thai counterparts about the boat believed still at sea at a border cooperation meeting on Thursday.
Malaysian authorities are on the lookout for more Rohingya boats entering the country’s waters, Noor Mushar said.
Most people in Buddhist-majority Myanmar don’t accept Rohingya Muslims as a native ethnic group. They are instead viewed as having migrated illegally from Bangladesh, though generations of Rohingya have lived in Myanmar. Nearly all have been denied citizenship since 1982 and lack access to education and hospitals.
The UN General Assembly approved a resolution in December condemning “gross human rights violations and abuses” against Myanmar’s Rohingya.
Myanmar’s government denies claims of genocide and ethnic cleansing. The country rejects the UN investigators’ work and the General Assembly resolution as biased.

Poor air quality: Malaysia tells citizens to stay indoors

Updated 37 min 11 sec ago

Poor air quality: Malaysia tells citizens to stay indoors

  • Nearly 1,500 schools closed as haze continues to plague the country

KUALA LUMPUR: As Malaysia’s haze problem worsened on Wednesday, some areas of the country recorded readings above 200 on the Air Pollution Index (API), which officials told Arab News is considered “very unhealthy.”

More than a million primary and high-school students stayed home as 1,484 schools remained closed in seven states, including Selangor and Sarawak — the two worst-affected states. 

In some areas of Sarawak, API readings were above 300, which is considered hazardous to the environment and human health. 

The Ministry of Education advised all higher education institutions in the haze-affected states to postpone their classes, while some companies and institutions, including the Ministry of Youth and Sports, asked employees to work from home.

Responding to the worsening situation, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Muhamad stressed that Malaysia must deal with the haze issue on its own.

“We will have to find ways to deal with the haze, through cloud seeding, asking people to stay at home, and school closures,” he said at a press conference in Putrajaya. 

The Malaysia government also stressed that it will take legal action against Malaysian companies that own estates and plantations outside Malaysia which have contributed to the problem. 

“We will ask them to put out the fires (they have set). If they are unwilling to take action, we may have to pass a law that holds them responsible,” the 93-year-old Malaysian leader said.

The ASEAN Specialized Meteorological Centre reported that forest fires in Indonesia’s Sumatera and Kalimantan regions have intensified, leading to an increase in the haze across the Southeast Asian region. Those fires, coupled with the dry weather conditions in certain areas, mean the air quality is expected to continue to deteriorate. The general public have been advised to stay indoors and to wear facemasks if they do have to go outside.

Benjamin Ong, a Kuala Lumpur-based environmentalist told Arab News that many Malaysians are concerned about the ongoing and worsening issue of haze, which has become an annual occurrence despite efforts by Malaysia, Indonesia and other Southeast-Asian governments to tackle the transboundary problem. 

“Outdoor activities are badly affected, including environmental activities like hiking and outdoor classes for kids,” Ong said, adding that many families are especially concerned about the pollution’s impact on their children’s education.

“The haze has been hanging around for at least 20 years, but the root causes have never been systematically tackled,” he added. “Distribution of masks, school closures and cloud seeding are only treating the symptoms, so to speak, and do not in any way make society more resilient to haze if and when it returns.”