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Over 500 Rohingya flee Malaysian detention center, 6 killed

Refugees died while trying to cross busy highway, hundreds caught after early morning escape in Penang province

At least six Rohingya refugees were killed after more than 500 escaped from a detention center in Malaysia early on Wednesday.

According to state news agency Bernama, 528 Rohingya detainees fled from the Sungai Bakap Immigration Detention Depot in Nibong Tebal, a town in Malaysia’s northwestern Penang province.

Six detainees – two men, two women, a boy and a girl – were killed while trying to cross a busy highway, said provincial police chief Mohamad Shuhaily Mohamad Zain.

“There were 664 Rohingya detainees at the depot and 528 of them escaped … We have managed to recapture 229 of them along the highway, while 88 others were caught earlier by villagers and Immigration Department personnel not far from the depot,” he was quoted as saying.

Efforts are underway to track down the remaining refugees, he added.

Described by the UN as “the most persecuted minority in the world,” the Rohingya faced a brutal military crackdown in Rakhine state in their home country of Myanmar in August 2017.

Thousands of Rohingya have been killed by Myanmar forces, while more than 1 million have fled in successive waves of displacement since the 1990s, according to the UN refugee agency.

Muslim-majority Malaysia is one of the countries in Southeast Asia hosting thousands of Rohingya refugees.

Of the over 181,500 refugees and asylum-seekers in Malaysia as of this January, more than 155,600 were from Myanmar, including “some 103,560 Rohingyas, 22,580 Chins, and 29,470 other ethnic groups from conflict-affected areas or fleeing persecution in Myanmar,” according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.​​​​​​​

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