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Trafficking abuse of Myanmar's Rohingya spreads to Malaysia

Published on Mar 6, 2014 11:58 AM
Rohingya men sit as they wait to register for a temporary card issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) at a centre in Kuala Lumpur February 27, 2014. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS

BUKIT MERTAJAM, Malaysia (Reuters) - Human traffickers have kept hundreds of Rohingya Muslims captive in houses in northern Malaysia, beating them, depriving them of food, and demanding a ransom from their families, according to detailed accounts by the victims.

The accounts given to Reuters suggest that trafficking gangs are shifting their operations into Malaysia as the Thai authorities crack down on jungle camps near the border that have become a prison for the Muslim asylum seekers fleeing persecution in Myanmar.

Police in the northern Malaysian states of Penang and Kedah have conducted several raids on the houses in recent months, including an operation in February that discovered four Rohingya men bound together with metal chains in an apartment.

But Reuters' interviews reveal a trafficking network on a far bigger scale than authorities have acknowledged so far, with brokers herding groups of hundreds of Rohingya at night over the border and holding them captive in the South-east Asian country.

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