Apriadi Gunawan, Medan – Tanjung Balai Police in North Sumatra arrested on Monday a suspected human trafficker attempting to smuggle 28 Rohingya refugees to Malaysia.
The local water police unit arrested the 50-year-old suspect, identified only by the initials KU, on the Asahan River in Asahan regency on Monday afternoon. He claimed he had been paid by a resident of Bagan Asahan to smuggle the refugees.
"I got paid Rp 3 million (US$1,919)," KU said, according to the police.
Tanjung Balai Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Ahmad Yusuf Afandi said the group of Rohingya refugees had fled a temporary refugee camp in Lhokseumawe, Aceh. The group consisted of 11 men, 11 women and six children who had been taking shelter in Aceh for five months.
"They fled from the camp and were taken to Tanjung Balai by three persons to be trafficked to Malaysia," Ahmad told reporters. Lhokseumawe Police had arrested two of the three individuals, while the other was still at large.
Ahmad added that the refugee group had been transported by bus from Lhokseumawe to Sei Apung in Asahan regency, where they were transferred to a boat headed to Malaysia.
A 2017 Myanmar military crackdown against the Rohingya ethnic minority, an action that United Nations investigators said amounted to genocide, prompted 750,000 Rohingya to flee across the border into Bangladesh's southeast coastal district of Cox's Bazar, where many ended up in sprawling refugee camps.
Thousands have since paid smugglers to get them out of Bangladesh, enduring harrowing, months-long sea journeys to reach Indonesia and Malaysia, punctuated by illness, beatings by traffickers and near-starvation rations.
Many of these boats would enter Indonesian waters in Aceh before being saved and brought ashore by local fishermen or authorities. (dre)