On Sep. 26, police intercepted the group in the Ayeyarwady region as they were traveling by boat from Sittwe, capital of Rakhine state, to Yangon and were arrested for lacking approved travel documentation.
“Myanmar authorities seem intent on persecuting Rohingya whether they stay at home or try to travel freely in the country,” said Brad Adams, HRW’s Asia director.
“These 30 men, women, and children are being punished for simply seeking an escape from the daily brutality they’ve been subjected to for years,” he added.
In 2017 they were subjected to an ethnic cleansing campaign resulting in the exodus of more than 740,000 from Rakhine state into Bangladesh where they have since been living in sprawling refugee camps.
HRW said the group was convicted after a one-day hearing during which they were reportedly denied access to any legal representation.
The group told police they had paid traffickers between 500,000 and 700,000 kyats (between US$326-460) for their transport to Yangon where some hoped to find work and others planned to sail to Malaysia, according to a Radio Free Asia report.
Adams said the arrests show the United Nations and foreign governments advocating for the repatriation of Rohingya refugees back from Bangladesh that Myanmar authorities have "no interest in granting its Rohingya population fundamental freedoms.”
“It’s a cruel irony that these Rohingya will be trading what was effectively confinement to open air detention in Rakhine state for confinement in a state prison in Pathein,” Adams added.
An estimated 600,000 Rohingya live in Rakhine state, where they are closely monitored.