Rohingya boat people fake drowning, stranded on island near Langkawi

LANGKAWI, 27 July 2020:

The 27 Rohingya refugees feared drowned in the sea off the island yesterday have actually entered the country illegally, said Kedah and Perlis Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) director first admiral (maritime) Mohd Zawawi Abdullah.

He said the 13 men, nine women and five children (four boys and one girl) were found hiding in Pulau Rebak Besar near here at 6.15pm yesterday.

They were found by the search and rescue team during Operation CARILAMAT – after authorities initially received a report from a Rohingya ‘survivor’ claiming that 24 of his compatriots might have drowned after they all allegedly jumped off a boat near the island at 8pm on Saturday.

This is believed to be the group’s latest modus operandi in trying to enter the country illegally. Previously, they would purposely cause a leak on their boats or damage the engine once they were near the island.

“The search and rescue operation team failed to find any clues or victims. It then received a complaint from a local fisherman who found a Rohingya man on Pulau Rebak Besar. An MMEA boat was then dispatched to the location.

“The migrant was taken to the Kedah and Perlis Malaysian Maritime Jetty in Bukit Malut for interrogation and he revealed there were 26 more migrants still hiding on the island.

“As a result, the MMEA boat and the Gagah maritime vessel, together with the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN), conducted a search and found the 26 migrants, who are aged between five and 45,” Mohd Zawawi said at a press conference at the Kedah and Perlis State Maritime Headquarters, Bukit Malut, today.

He said all 27 migrants, including the complainant, were taken to the Kedah and Perlis Malaysian Maritime Jetty in Bukit Malut for further investigations and for preliminary Covid-19 screening before they are handed over to the Immigration Department.

“We are still investigating how long they’ve been on the island and how they managed to trespass into the country’s waters. We also found that the Rohingya man nabbed had links to the two skippers (tekong darat or dallal) who were arrested in an operation involving five agencies on July 21.

“Regarding the modus operandi, we do not rule out the possibility of a fishing boat having to come to pick them up but with the two skippers detained, the refugees were at a loss causing one of them to swim off to the breakwater area in Kuala Chenang.”

Mohd Zawawi also expressed regret over local fishermen suspected of acting as transporters by bringing migrants into the country.

“Investigations found that the modus operandi of the syndicate is to transfer migrants from the main boat near the country’s waters onto the local fishing boats to deceive the local authorities.”

The National Task Force (NTF) also believes the entry of the migrant group received the help of locals suspected to act as accomplices for migrant smuggling syndicates.

NTF Commander Admiral Datuk Aris Adi Tan Abdullah said locals on the island were found to have provided facilities such as fishing boats for the purpose of deceiving the authorities.

“They (migrants) will then disguise themselves as fishermen before landing on the islands around Langkawi,” he said in a statement today.

Aris Adi described the involvement of locals who were found to help migrants sneak through the country’s borders as traitors to the country.

He said NTF would continue to monitor the situation and firm action would be taken to ensure the well-being and security of the country are protected.

“Arrests will be made to track down the remnants of the syndicate involved in the smuggling of migrants.

“The public is urged to cooperate in channelling any information regarding migrants, smuggling, border encroachment or any cross-border criminal activity through the NTF Operations Centre hotline (011-6251 1223).”

In JOHOR BAHRU, police have detained two Bangladeshis last night for attempting to bribe Danga Bay police chief with RM10,000 in cash as an inducement to release nine illegal immigrants.

Johor Bahru Selatan police chief ACP Mohd Padzli Mohd Zain said the men aged 35 and 43 were arrested at 11pm at the Danga Bay police station.

“Earlier a police team from the Sentral police station had detained eight Bangladeshis and one Myanmar man for having expired travel documents and not having valid travel documents in a raid under Op Benteng at a condominium in the city centre at about 6.30pm.

“While processing the arrests at the Danga Bay police station, the two Bangladeshi men arrived and handed over RM10,000 in cash as an inducement to release all the nine detained illegal immigrants,” he said in a statement today.

Mohd Padzli said the men were immediately detained for attempting to bribe the police inspector and the cash was seized to assist in the investigation.

He said the suspects and the nine illegal immigrants have been remanded for 14 days for further investigations under Section 17(b) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009 and Section 15(1)(C) of the Immigration Act 1959/63.

Separately, the Kedah and Perlis Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (Maritime Malaysia) arrested five Indonesian men attempting to smuggle in 230kg of ganja valued at RM700,000 off Pulau Beras Basah, here over the weekend.

Mohd Zawawi said patrol vessels detected two boats at 11.30pm on Saturday near Puala Beras Basah, and as soon as they were about to inspect them, they fled before a chase ensued at sea.

“Our men saw them disposing large sacks into the sea as they were fleeing, but we managed to retrieve all four of them. The suspects, two on the first boat and three more on the second onboard, were eventually caught some 20 minutes later.”

He said their boats were towed to the agency’s jetty while the five suspects were made to undergo Covid-19 screenings.

“All five suspects, aged between 25 and 54, and the seized items were then handed over to the agency’s investigators.”

– Bernama