Police investigating Rohingya rape allegations in Indonesia

AP News
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Posted: Oct 12, 2015 7:23 AM

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (AP) — A language barrier is stalling an investigation into allegations of rape against three female Rohingya at an encampment in Indonesia's Aceh province, police said Monday.

Only one Rohingya woman has been questioned so far, while six local witnesses have given statements, said Lt. Col. Anang Triarsono, Lhokseumawe district police chief. No suspects have been named.

"The language is our main obstacle," he said, adding police were waiting for an interpreter to be arranged.

Last month, four females and six males, aged 14 to 28, were believed to have been trying to flee the camp to go to neighboring Malaysia where thousands of Myanmar's long-persecuted Muslim minority have sought refuge. The Rohingya alleged they were stopped by a group of Indonesian men who beat them and raped three of the females, including a 14-year-old.

The allegations escalated tensions, and more than 200 ethnic Rohingya briefly stormed out of their encampment in Blang Adoe, where they have been held since arriving by boat in May. The Rohingya protested when police wanted to take one of the females to hospital. They feared she could be abused more if separated from the group. Eventually, all were taken for examinations.

Triarsono said doctors at Cut Meutia Hospital in North Aceh District reported they found no evidence of rape.

Since Myanmar ended a half-century of military rule in 2011, an estimated 130,000 Rohingya have fled violence and persecution, sparking the largest boat exodus in Asia since the Vietnam War. Earlier this year, the situation spiraled after a crackdown on people smugglers in Thailand and Malaysia left thousands of Rohingya and Bangladeshis stranded at sea when their agents and captains abandoned them, fearing arrest.

Several countries refused to let the boats bring people ashore in May, worried that opening the door to a few would invite a massive influx.

Under international pressure, Indonesia and Malaysia finally allowed the boats to land and said they would temporarily let people stay until a more permanent solution could be found.

Hundreds of Rohingya ended up in Indonesia, but it was never their intended destination. They are being held in camps, cannot work and are separated from family members, including those living in Malaysia.