85 Rohingya Boatpeople Land in Mon State

By Lawi Weng 25 May 2012

Eighty-five Rohingya boatpeople who were picked up by Mon fishermen in the Andaman Sea have been landed at Aim Dein village in Ye Township, Mon State.

“They were at sea for two weeks,” said a local Mon woman had who voluntarily taken food and water to the destitute people. “Then they had engine problems during a storm and could go no further.”

According to local residents in Ye, only one of the boatpeople is a woman; the rest are men. They were put ashore at Aim Dein at 3 pm on Thursday by fishermen who picked them up while they were drifting at sea.

Aim Dein is a remote coastal village 10 miles from Ye in southern Burma or Myanmar.

“The boatpeople told us that 17 others had died at sea from starvation,” said an Aim Dein local. “They said they were en route to Malaysia.”

Later on Thursday, Mon township authorities, police and maritime officers interviewed the 85 boatpeople. No comment was made, however, on what would be done with the Rohingya boatpeople nor where they would be sheltered in the meantime.

On Wednesday, Maung Kyaw Nu, the president of the Burmese Rohingya Association of Thailand, appealed to Burmese MPs and to opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to assist the almost 2 million Rohingya living in Burma and elsewhere.

Rohingya people perennially leave their homes and families in Burma and Bangladesh where they face extreme discrimination and are denied citizenship.

The Muslim Rohingya often find they have little alternative but to try to travel illegally across the Andaman Sea to try to find work in Thailand, Malaysia or another third country.

They are frequently described by human rights groups as “one of the most persecuted people in the world.”

Thailand is among the countries criticized for treating Rohingya boatpeople inhumanely. The Rohingya issue drew international attention in 2009 when the Thai military was accused of intercepting boatloads of Rohingyas, sabotaging their vessels, and abandoning them at sea.