Bangkok, Jun 6 (EFE).- Nearly 60 Rohingya refugees have been rescued on an island in southern Thailand while attempting to reach Malaysia, Thai authorities told Efe on Monday.
Mumeen Malinee, assistant superintendent of Tarutao National Park, said a unit had found the group of 59 refugees, who had escaped from Myanmar, on a beach on Dong Island in Satun province near the Malaysian border on Saturday.
The park guards notified the Thai Navy, who rescued the group, which included 5 children and 23 women, after they had survived without water or food for several days, local media reported.
Lieutenant general Surachet Hakpan told Efe that authorities were investigating whether the refugees were victims of human trafficking or undocumented migrants.
The refugees belong to the stateless Muslim Rohingya minority which is heavily persecuted in Myanmar, a majority Buddhist nation.
One of the refugees told the Thairath television channel that they had left from the coast of Bangladesh — where they fled to in 2017 after the Myanmar armed forces launched a military crackdown against the country’s Rohingya minority, which the United Nations has said amounts to genocide — intending to reach Malaysia.
Thai Police reported that two other ships carrying some 120 people were detained upon arrival in Malaysia, prompting the third vessel to abort the operation and abandon the Rohingya migrants on the island in southern Thailand.
In late May, at least 14 people died and over 50 disappeared after a ship loaded with Rohingyas sank in the Bay of Bengal.
In March, over 100 Rohingya travelers arrived in a small boat in the northern Indonesian province of Aceh.
The many crossings recorded this year are reminiscent of the 2015 refugee crisis, when several boats crammed with hundreds of Rohingya drifted for weeks as authorities in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia refused to let them land at their shores.
The 2015 crisis was triggered by the discovery and closure of dozens of camps in southern Thailand and northern Malaysia used by human trafficking rings.
The crisis worsened in 2017 when a military operation in the western Myanmar state of Rakhine resulted in thousands of deaths and sparked the exodus of over a million Rohingya who fled to neighboring Bangladesh.
United Nations investigators have accused the Myanmar government of an ethnic cleansing campaign that bears the “hallmarks of genocide”.
The International Criminal Court in The Hague in 2019 launched a full investigation into alleged crimes against humanity committed by the Myanmar government against the Muslim minority group.
The vast majority of Rohingya people are stateless after their citizenship was stripped by the Myanmar government in the early 1990s.EFE