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November 16, 2018 02:50 PM NPT
BANGLADESH, Nov 16: More than 100 people on a boat, thought to be Rohingya Muslims, have been arrested in Myanmar, officials have said.
The arrests in Yangon, the country's largest city, have sparked fears of a fresh wave of dangerous voyages following a crackdown on smugglers three years ago.
The vessel had been carrying 106 individuals and was stopped 20 miles (30km) to the south of the Yangon port in Kyauktan.
Senior officers were on their way to investigate the boat before the arrests were made, according to immigration officer Kyaw Htay.
He said: "It's possible that they are from Rakhine. Like in previous years, it is possible they are Bengali from Rakhine."
Many in the country call the Rohingya "Bengali" to imply they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
The arrests come after the first official day of repatriating thousands of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh to Myanmar ended in failure after no one agreed to return.
"We won't force them back," Bangladesh's Rohingya relief and repatriation commissioner, Mohammad Abul Kalam told Sky News.
Officials said they would continue to try to encourage refugees to return voluntarily. More than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims fled the brutal crackdown in Myanmar's Rakhine state last year.
They say soldiers and local Buddhists massacred families, burned hundreds of villages, and carried out gang rapes.
UN-mandated investigators have accused the army of "genocidal intent" and ethnic cleansing.
Myanmar denies almost all of the allegations, saying security forces were battling terrorists.
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