Over 30 Rohingya caught arriving in Malaysia by boat in January: police

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - More than 30 Rohingya people, believed to have fled a refugee camp in Indonesia, were caught arriving in Malaysia by boat last month, the Malaysian police said on Sunday.

The Rohingyas, mostly women, boarded a boat from Tanjung Balai in Indonesia and landed in Selangor, on the west coast of Malaysia on Jan. 6, police said.

Seeking refuge, Muslim Rohingya have for years boarded boats fleeing persecution in Myanmar and refugee camps in Bangladesh, some taking the dangerous option of travelling with people-smugglers to Southeast Asia.

Malaysia does not recognise refugee status, but the Muslim-majority country is a favoured destination for Rohingyas seeking a better life.

Seventeen Rohingya women, seven men and seven children, as well as five Indonesian women, were on board, police said of the arrivals, which were reported by AFP on Friday.

The Royal Malaysia Police internal security director, Abdul Rahim Jaafar, said 21 of the migrants have been charged with entering the country without valid documents, and two others charged under anti-trafficking laws.

More than a dozen of them have been handed over to the Malaysian Immigration Department, Abdul Rahim said.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said on Friday during Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s visit that both countries discussed Rohingya issues.

Reporting by Liz Lee; Editing by William Mallard