KUALA LUMPUR • The Malaysian authorities were yesterday on the lookout for boats believed to be carrying up to 200 Rohingya Muslims after dozens of migrants were found near a beach in the country's northern state of Perlis.
Scores of Rohingya Muslims have boarded boats in recent months to try to reach Malaysia, part of what the authorities fear could be a new wave of people smuggling via sea after a 2015 crackdown on trafficking.
Forty-one Rohingya men and boys, aged between 14 and 30, were detained yesterday near the town of Simpang Empat after landing on Sungai Belati beach, state police chief Noor Mushar Mohamad said in a statement.
Thirty-five migrants last month landed at the same beach in Perlis, bordering Thailand.
More boats carrying about 200 Rohingya migrants are believed to be at sea, the state police chief added.
"If we find them in our waters, we will bring them to shore," he said, adding that it was not clear if this group was travelling from Bangladesh or Myanmar.
More than 700,000 Rohingya crossed into Bangladesh in 2017, fleeing an army crackdown in Myanmar's Rakhine state, according to United Nations agencies.
Estimated number of Rohingya migrants believed to be at sea.
The boat that arrived off Perlis yesterday was carrying 47 Rohingya, all of whom paid a Thai trafficker RM4,000 (S$1,322) each to take them to Malaysia, Datuk Noor Mushar said, citing interviews with one of the detainees.
The group had been travelling with hundreds of other Rohingya on a larger boat before they were transferred to smaller, crowded vessels in Thai waters, he said.
The 47 migrants were dropped off the boat about 1km offshore and walked for an hour through mud.
Forty-one were detained and six people are missing, the state police chief said.
"Since there was no one to greet them, they made their way in separate groups to the nearby villages, covered in mud," he said, adding that they were in good health despite their ordeal.