97 Rohingya Muslims die of hunger
Monday, 25 February 2013 18:22
Ninety-seven Rohingya Muslims fleeing violence in Myanmar have died of hunger after being stranded at sea for 25 days, reports say.
Thirty three Muslim immigrants who were rescued off the coast of Sri Lanka last week said that they were on a boat heading to Malaysia when Thailand navy forces intercepted them and took the boat's engine.
The survivors said they were left floating at sea for 25 days without water and food when Sri Lanka's navy finally rescued them last Saturday about 250 miles off the country's east coast, while the boat began sinking.
The survivors, 32 men and a boy, were taken to an immigration detention centre near Sri Lanka's capital, Colombo, while suffering from serious dehydration.
"The journey was dangerous, but we had to do that ... as we fear for our lives, no jobs, and big fighting [in Myanmar]," said one of the survivors, Shofiulla.
Shofiulla said that there were 130 Rohingyas on the boat and each had paid $465 for the journey that began on January 10.
Thailand navy has rejected the allegation.
Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Refugee voiced concern over the increasing number of Rohingya deaths at sea. The international body also urged Myanmar government to "promote reconciliation and economic development in Rakhine state, pursue practical measures to ensure basic rights so that the Rohingya can lead normal lives where they are, and grant them access to citizenship."
Myanmar's government refuses to recognize Rohingya Muslims as citizens and labels the minority of about 800,000 as "illegal" immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh, which has shown no willingness to help the Rohingyas.
More than 100,000 Rohingyas have been displaced since the sectarian violence broke out in June, according to the UN.
Rohingya Muslims have faced torture, neglect, and repression in Myanmar for many years.