Fishing boat takes 202 Rohingya migrants to Malaysia

Malaysian authorities have arrested two people suspected of being human traffickers in connection with the arrival of this boat crammed with Rohingya migrants in Langkawi on April 5 (AFP Photo/Handout)

Malaysia on Sunday detained 202 suspected Rohingya Muslims who arrived illegally by boat, a top official said, raising fears that people smugglers are back in action despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Zulinda Ramly, deputy director with the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, told AFP a large fishing boat ferried the suspected Rohingya migrants to the northern resort island of Langkawi.

Malaysia is a favoured destination for the migrants from Myanmar as it is a Muslim majority nation with a sizeable Rohingya diaspora.

With few opportunities for jobs and education in Myanmar or refugee camps in Bangladesh, thousands have attempted to reach Southeast Asian nations.

Zulinda said the migrants were detained by maritime authorities for questioning and will be handed over to immigration officials.

"Authorities are investigating complaints by the migrants that three individuals -- a boat captain and two crew members -- were operatives of a human smuggling ring," she said in a statement.

The three apparently escaped to sea after bringing the boat into Malaysian waters.