Alarm for a boat with more than 150 Rohingya stranded and leaking off Thailand

At least 150 Rohingya remain stranded at sea off the coast of Thailand after their boat broke down, activist groups said Wednesday, adding that several people may have died and urging authorities to rescue survivors.

NewsEditor
NewsEditor
07 December 2022 Wednesday 05:31
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Alarm for a boat with more than 150 Rohingya stranded and leaking off Thailand

At least 150 Rohingya remain stranded at sea off the coast of Thailand after their boat broke down, activist groups said Wednesday, adding that several people may have died and urging authorities to rescue survivors.

Every year, many Rohingya, members of a persecuted Muslim minority, risk their lives boarding rickety boats to escape oppression and violence in Burma and misery in refugee camps in Bangladesh. Many try to reach Malaysia.

The number of people attempting the treacherous journey has increased following deteriorating conditions in refugee camps and last year's military coup in Burma, which returned to power the army, accused by the United Nations of carrying out a crackdown. "genocidal" against the Rohingya in 2017.

The stranded boat left Bangladesh in late November and began leaking when it was off the coast of Ranong in southern Thailand, said Chris Lewa, director of the human rights organization Project Arakan, citing interviews with relatives of the passengers.

"(I know) they have almost run out of food and water in the boat," he said, adding that the men were desperately trying to get water out of the boat. In addition, he added that those on board said they had seen a Thai navy ship, but it did not help them.

A Thai navy official told Reuters the ship had not entered Thai waters and was currently in Indian territory. The exact location of the vessel remained unclear.

Siyeed Alam, a Thailand-based Rohingya activist who also said he spoke to relatives of those on board, said some passengers had died. "Their condition is very bad ... (they are) emaciated and if help does not arrive, they are going to die," he said.

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said on Friday that this year had seen a "dramatic increase" in the number of people trying to cross the Andaman Sea between Myanmar and Bangladesh. At least 1,900 people have made the trek, one of the deadliest in the world, six times as many as in 2020. At least 119 have died attempting the trek this year alone, the agency said.

A UNHCR spokesman in Thailand said the agency was "deeply concerned about the current situation on board" and was advocating that the Thai authorities rescue them and help them disembark safely.

More than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims fled Myanmar in 2017 after a military crackdown, including mass killings and gang rapes, settling in makeshift camps in southern Bangladesh.

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