Facing fears prisons could be coronavirus hotbeds, 800 free Rohingya prisoners freed
Myanmar shipped hundreds of recently released Rohingya inmates back to the country’s restive western borderlands on Monday, after fears that its overcrowded prisons could become hotbeds for runaway coronavirus outbreaks.
Men, women, and children belonging to the stateless and long-persecuted Muslim minority were among nearly 25,000 prisoners freed last week by a presidential pardon to mark the country’s April New Year celebrations.
A Navy vessel transported the group from Yangon to western Rakhine state, where most Rohingya live under tight movement restrictions and in conditions Amnesty International has condemned as “apartheid.”
More than 600 disembarked near state capital Sittwe, while another 200 were taken further north to townships on the border with Bangladesh, state immigration department chief Soe Lwin told AFP.
“They will be quarantined,” he added, without giving further details.
Myanmar’s biggest prisoner release in years came as coronavirus fears gripped the country, with calls for low-risk inmates to be released from what Human Rights Watch describes as Myanmar’s “horribly overcrowded and unsanitary” jails.
The World Health Organization has also warned that prison populations are particularly vulnerable to the spread of the disease.
Myanmar has only 111 confirmed COVID-19 cases but experts fear the real number is many times higher because of the low numbers tested and the country’s chronically underfunded healthcare system.
Pressure is also on Myanmar to improve its treatment of the Rohingya, after a bloody military crackdown in 2017 sent around 750,000 civilians fleeing into Bangladesh and prompted genocide charges at the UN’s top court.
The country must report back to the International Court of Justice next month, to outline the efforts it was taking to protect the minority.
Hundreds of Rohingya have been arrested and charged with immigration offences in recent years after trying to flee Rakhine state and seek refuge in other countries.
But the Rohingya garner little sympathy within Myanmar, where they are widely viewed as illegal immigrants even though many trace their roots in the country back generations.
Coronavirus: Iran’s reports 91 new deaths, total rises to 5,209The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak in Iran reached 5,209 on Monday with 91 deaths in the past twenty four hours, Health Ministry spokesman ... Coronavirus
Coronavirus: UAE’s fatwa council say medical workers, patients exempt from fastingThe Emirates Fatwa Council said that coronavirus patients and medical workers on the frontline are exempt from fasting during the holy month of ... Coronavirus
Coronavirus: Sydney reopens three beaches despite expert warning on social distancingSydney, the largest city in Australia, has reopened three beaches despite experts warning that the government should not lift social distancing ... Coronavirus
Coronavirus: Kuwait reports two new deaths as infections rise to 1,995Kuwait reported two new coronavirus deaths in the last 24 hours, which brought the total number of virus-related fatalities on Sunday to nine, the ... Coronavirus