Officials Say Boat Carrying Rohingya Muslims Lands in Indonesia

By Reuters 5 December 2018

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia — Indonesian authorities said a boat carrying 20 men believed to be Rohingya Muslims landed on the northeastern shore of Indonesia’s Sumatra island on Tuesday.

It is the latest in a series of boat departures from Myanmar and Bangladesh, from where Rohingya Muslims have attempted to flee to Malaysia in recent weeks, raising fears of a fresh wave of such dangerous voyages after a 2015 crackdown on people smugglers.

The disaster mitigation agency in East Aceh said men they described as Rohingya refugees landed in the town of Kuala Idi and were being given food and water.

Immigration authorities told Reuters they were on their way to the region to question the group.

The chief of a fishing community in the area said the group was bound for Malaysia and it was unclear why it had landed in Indonesia.

“Their boat is still working and they have fuel, so we don’t know why they entered our area,” said Razali, who goes by one name, in Kuala Idi on the eastern coast of Aceh where the boat landed.

The men were mostly in their 20s, he said.

It was not immediately clear if the boat had originated in Myanmar or Bangladesh. Thousands of Rohingya landed in Indonesia and Malaysia in 2015 after they were left stranded in the Andaman Sea in the wake of a crackdown on people smugglers.

Authorities in Myanmar seized a boat carrying 93 people fleeing from Rohingya camps in Rakhine State last month, one of several boats attempting the journey to Malaysia.

Myanmar regards Rohingya as illegal migrants from the Indian subcontinent and has confined tens of thousands to sprawling camps in Rakhine State since violence swept the area in 2012.

More than 700,000 Rohingya crossed into Bangladesh last year fleeing an army crackdown in the north of Rakhine State, according to UN agencies.

The latest departures come as Myanmar prepares to take some of the refugees back after agreeing with Bangladesh to start repatriations on Nov. 15, despite widespread opposition from Rohingya, who say they will not return without guarantees of basic rights, including citizenship and freedom of movement.