Nearly 200 starving Rohingya refugees from Myanmar and Bangladesh arrived by boat on Indonesian shores after a perilous journey across the Andaman Sea.
Refugees escaping persecution and squalid conditions attempted to ferry themselves to nearby Malaysia. The boat’s engines failed before being denied entry to Malaysia and drifted towards Indonesia for over a month.
In an interview with France 24 Umar Faruq, a 14-year-old boy said: "We left Bangladesh (and) after 10 days our rations finished," He added: "The engine broke down after seven days. (Then) Malaysia didn't let us arrive."
Survivors said 26 people had died on the journey and were thrown overboard. Once they arrived on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, the refugees were taken to a local mosque and provided with food and water.
Many refugees were severely malnourished, dehydrated, and in need of medical attention.
While Indonesia does not turn refugees away, it doesn’t actively help them ashore. Indonesian authorities and aid workers helped survivors once they landed on the beach.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees reports that another boat, which embarked at the same time, is still missing. All 180 occupants are presumed dead.
UN agencies and multiple nations, including the United States, have condemned Myanmar for state-sanctioned violence against the Muslim Rohingyas. The most recent military crackdown began in 2017 and has seen 900,000 Rohingyas flee to neighbouring Bangladesh.
Violence and discrimination against the Muslim minority in Myanmar have been driven by Buddhist nationalism and armed conflict between government forces and Rohingya militias.
Aung Kyaw Moe, an advisor to the exiled National Unity government of Myanmar, says the conditions in Bangladesh refugee camps are still dangerous, with a camp leader apparently having been murdered on Monday.
There has been a sharp increase in refugee boats sailing across the Andaman Sea this year. Around 2000 people have attempted to cross the ocean and an estimated 200 people have died so far.
This comes as violence has escalated in Myanmar since the 2021 military coup, with executions of pro-democracy activists being witnessed for the first time in 40 years.
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