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Myanmar Sentences 20 From Alleged Trafficking Ship

FILE - A Myanmar navy vessel tows a boat with migrants, off the country's Thameehla island, May 31, 2015.

Myanmar says it has convicted 20 crew members of a ship that was found off the country’s coast last month carrying more than 200 migrant workers.

Court attorney Aung Kyaw Nyunt told VOA Burmese Wednesday that the men, including the Thai captain, were given prison terms of five years each.

“They are imprisoned under the Immigration Act, not on human trafficking charges. They pled guilty to the charges, so [the] court decided the sentence. But they will [still] face the charges for the human trafficking. They are crew members," he said.

The ship in question was found off the Myanmar coast in late May carrying 208 migrants, many of whom later told VOA they had been held prisoner under horrific conditions for three months at sea.

All but eight of the migrants were found to be from Bangladesh and later repatriated. Earlier this month, VOA was given access to the men, some of whom said they were kidnapped from Cox’s Bazar and other ports in Bangladesh and sold to human traffickers.

The remaining eight are Rohingya from Myanmar, who are being investigated. Their fate remains unclear.

Thousands of migrants became stranded at sea this year after Thai authorities began a crackdown on smuggling networks. Most of the migrants are believed to be from Bangladesh or Myanmar.

This report was produced in collaboration with VOA’s Burmese Service.