More than 80 Rohingya have been detained on their way to Malaysia illegally by boat through southeastern Myanmar. They were traveling illegally through human traffickers. The news agency AFP reported the information in a report on Saturday, citing a security source.

A security source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that the group included women and children. They were arrested by authorities from Thanbyujat town in Mon state on Friday.

Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar’s western Rakhine state are widely considered illegal immigrants in the Buddhist-majority country. They have long faced discrimination, denied citizenship, healthcare and education.

“They were hiding near a rubber plantation after being taken by boat from Rakhine state,” the security source told AFP. The traffickers promised to take them to Malaysia.

Malaysia is the main destination for the persecuted Muslim majority Rohingyas to flee.

An investigation is underway on them. Analysts fear the group could face criminal charges for leaving Rakhine state. Rohingyas found guilty of violating immigration laws can even be jailed for two years in Myanmar.

Anti-trafficking departments in Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw declined to comment on the case.

The source added that there were also reports that a Myanmar navy ship found 120 Rohingya on a boat near Mudon town in Mon state.

In 2017, about 750,000 Rohingyas were forced to flee Rakhine state and enter Bangladesh after Myanmar’s military crackdown, killings, arson and rape.

Amnesty International has compared their living conditions in Rakhine state to ‘apartheid’.

Following the incident, Myanmar is facing charges of genocide at the UN’s top court.

The Southeast Asian country has been in chaos since a coup in February last year. According to a local monitoring group, more than 2,400 civilians have been killed since the coup.

(November 6)