LANGKAWI: The percentage of illegal immigrants, especially Rohingyas, who encroach into Malaysian waters is very high due to the proximity of the islands in Thailand’s waters where they come from, at only 2.5 nautical miles.
Royal Malaysian Navy Region Three Commander, First Admiral Abd Hamid Ali, said these islands include Pulau Tarutao, Pulau Koh Lipe and Pulau Koh Adang in Thailand.
“These islands are very close to Langkawi and it is believed to be where they wait out before encroaching into national waters.
“So the RMN, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) and the Marine Police are constantly on 24-hour patrol,” he told Bernama in an exclusive interview with the National Task Force here.
Abd Hamid said the operations involve three sectors (operations offices) which work together to patrol the national waters off Langkawi Island against illegal immigrants.
“The first sector is the MMEA, the second the marine police and the third the RMN, which have their own commanders to report any encroachment by illegal immigrants into national waters,” he said.
He said although coordinated by the Malaysian Armed Forces, the collaboration of the three enforcement agencies has made the operations easier and more effective.
Abd Hamid said a major challenge is the involvement of locals who are behind the trafficking of illegal immigrants, especially Rohingyas.
“We are working with the maritime community which informs the local authorities of illegal immigrants entering national waters.
“There are cases where we have been able to prevent illegal immigrants from coming in after we received information from the maritime community,” he said.
Abd Hamid also issued a warning to boat skippers and those directly or indirectly involved in the trafficking of illegal immigrants.
“To all boat skippers and traffickers, we are watching you and action will be taken against those involved in these activities,” he said.
Meanwhile, commenting on the entry of 269 Rohingya nationals into Langkawi waters recently and if preventive measures were taken against the spread of Covid-19, Abd Hamid said the RMN is always on the alert and observed the standard operating procedure.
“When we arrested the illegal immigrants, we conducted Covid-19 screening tests and found all of them to be negative.
“They (the illegal immigrants) have not been exposed to the local Langkawi people and there is no risk of infection to the staff on duty as they are equipped with full protective gear,” he said.
On June 8, Bernama reported that 269 Rohingya nationals attempted to encroach the waters off Langkawi but were apprehended by the local authorities who also found a woman’s body on their boat. -Bernama