As 200 Rohingya Refugees Adrift in the Ocean

Bangkok, MINA – ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) urged ASEAN member countries to immediately rescue a ship carrying 200 Rohingya refugees who had been drifting off the coasts of Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and India for weeks.

“We urge ASEAN member countries and other countries in the region to fulfill their humanitarian obligations and launch search and rescue operations if ships enter their waters, and allow refugees to land properly,” said Eva Sundari, Member of the APHR Council, as quoted from Anadolu Agency on Wednesday.

According to media reports and information from human rights organizations, two other boats carrying Rohingya refugees have also been drifting in ASEAN waters over the last few weeks.

One boat carrying 154 refugees was rescued by a Vietnamese oil service ship on December 8 and handed over to the Myanmar navy, while another boat carrying 104 refugees was rescued by the Sri Lankan navy on December 18 at Kankesanturai Port.

In 2016 and 2017, the Rohingya were subjected to brutal military operations in Myanmar, displacing more than 730,000 people to neighboring Bangladesh.

In these desperate conditions, many of them throw themselves into the hands of unscrupulous people-smugglers in search of a better life in countries like Malaysia, on a perilous journey across the Andaman Sea.

“Most likely, the delay in the rescue of these boats has caused untold suffering and loss of life. Any further delay is unreasonable,” said Charles Santiago, chairman of APHR and a former member of parliament from Malaysia.

ASEAN must also address the root causes of the tragedy, including pressing Myanmar authorities to restore Rohingya citizenship, and taking in refugees currently living in dangerous camps in Bangladesh, the statement said.

Meanwhile, several boats reportedly left the shores of Bangladesh three weeks ago carrying hundreds of Rohingya refugees to move to third countries and seek a better life.

Bangladesh has provided shelter to 1.2 million Rohingya refugees in the coastal region of Cox’s Bazar since an influx of refugees in 2017 due to a crackdown by the Myanmar military.

In the past two months, Rohingya refugees living in Cox’s Bazar told Anadolu Agency that 3,000 refugees had made the perilous sea voyage to Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia.

Some 161 refugees were reported dead or missing at sea in 2022, according to the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR. (T/RE1)

Mi’raj News Agency (MINA)