Malaysian police detain Rohingya refugees in Penang, Malaysia, on Wednesday. AP
More than 500 Rohingya refugees escaped from detention in Malaysia following a protest but most have been rearrested, immigration officials said.
According to the officials six Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, including two children, have died after being hit by vehicles on a Malaysian highway as hundreds fled an immigration detention centre where a riot broke out early on Wednesday.
A total of 582 Rohingya escaped the Sungai Bakap temporary immigration detention camp in northern Penang state by breaking down doors and barrier grills, though 362 have since been re-arrested, the immigration department said in a statement.
"The search for the remaining detainees is continuing,” it said, without giving further details on what sparked the breakout.
Penang police chief Mohamad Shuhaily Mohamad Zain told local media that six detainees were killed while trying to cross a highway. He was quoted as saying the victims were two men, two women, a boy and a girl.
Since 2020, however, thousands have been rounded up and housed in crowded detention centres as part of what Malaysian authorities say are efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Police said they were still investigating the cause of Wednesday's riot, while authorities searched for the remaining detainees who had fled.
Two men, two women, a boy and a girl were killed after being hit by vehicles while trying to cross a highway some 8km (5 miles) away from the detention camp, Kedah state police chief Wan Hassan Wan Ahmad told reporters in a live-streamed press conference.
The exodus of Rohingya was sparked by a 2017 Myanmar army offensive against the mostly Muslim minority, with the UN's highest court last month giving the green light to a landmark case accusing the Buddhist-majority country of genocide.
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The inquiry comes as around a million Rohingya in vast camps in Bangladesh face increasing hostility two years after fleeing a military offensive in Myanmar.
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