Rohingya Asylum Seekers Found Adrift Near Thai Resort

People displaced by the recent sectarian violence in Burma’s Arakan State pass the time at their shelters at Owntaw refugee camp for Muslims outside Sittwe, the state capital, in November. (Photo: Reuters)

PHUKET, Thailand—A boat carrying about 70 asylum seekers from Burma’s beleaguered Rohingya minority has been found adrift in the Andaman Sea off the Thai resort of Phuket. Thai authorities provided it with supplies on Tuesday so it could be sent on its way.

Thai navy, police, health and other officials supplied medicine and food and water to the asylum seekers, along with fuel for the boat so it could continue its journey without landing in Thailand. Thai policy is to not accept boat people but to aid them in reaching a third country. The passengers include about 10 children.

The exodus of Muslim Rohingya from Burma and Bangladesh, where many are also confined to refugee camps, has become seasonal, peaking in December and January. Their fate became an international issue in 2008-2009, when predominantly Buddhist Thailand towed broken-down boats crammed with refugees back to sea, where they were cast adrift. Hundreds are believed to have died when the boats later sank.

The latest batch of asylum seekers told officials they had been at sea for 13 days and were headed for Malaysia, Thailand’s southern neighbor. Malaysia is seen as a welcoming destination because its own Muslim population is dominant, though it too considers the Rohingya undesirable.

On Sunday, about 450 asylum seekers from Burma landed in Malaysia after a similar boat journey that left one dead, a man who tried to swim to shore.

It was one of the largest groups of Rohingya this past year to reach Malaysia, where about 25,000 Rohingya are registered with the UN refugee agency.

The United Nations estimates the Rohingya population in Burma at 800,000, but the government does not recognize them as one of the country’s 135 ethnic groups, and most are denied citizenship.

Rohingya speak a Bengali dialect and resemble Muslim Bangladeshis, with darker skin than most people in Burma. They are widely regarded as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and heavily discriminated against. But Bangladesh also refuses to accept them as citizens.

2 Responses to Rohingya Asylum Seekers Found Adrift Near Thai Resort

  1. Watch out Mayaysia! Thanks to accepting the last batch of 450 ‘Rohinya’ boat people, words had went out that its worth taking the risk to be in Mayansia. You will have many thousands of Bangladeshis arriving in the name of Rohinyas. We have problem here of illegal immigrants taking over the name of Rohinyas to be legalized as citizen. Its very difficult for us to know who is real Arakanese Musim or who is illegal immigrants. Good luck to you.

  2. How many Bangladeshi Citizen Bengali on the boat?
    One of my friends from Sittagong emails me “they know so called Rohingya peoples are poor uneducated Bengali peasants from near Chittagong”.
    Also I have read about 14 Buddhist Jumma ethnic family from Chittagong Hill Tracts was seeking Asylum in Maungdaw Township in Rakhine state in RFA News. Jumma tribal in CHT is increasing threatening by illegal settlement by Bengali Muslim in their homeland.
    Bengali invasion is spreading to the world because of poor opportunity and poor living standard in Bangladesh.
    President U Thein Sein Government must be very careful about decision on illegal Bengali migrant future in Burma. Rakhine state will be fall to Bengali Muslim hands if Government make mistake. Bangladeshi Government is unofficially expending it citizen Bengali settlement in its neighboring countries.
    Burmese Government must have planned to defend Burmese sovereignty. Burmese Government shouldn’t accept any conception for resettling Bengali Muslim in Rakhine state.

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