Thailand, Malaysia asked to welcome drifting Rohingya ships

Bangkok, Jun 12 (efe-epa).- The NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Friday asked the authorities of Thailand and Malaysia to welcome ships that are adrift with Rohingya refugees amid precarious conditions and lack of food. and water.

In a statement, HRW stated that since May, the Malaysian authorities have blocked the arrival of 22 boats with illegal immigrants and it is estimated that at least a hundred Rohingya have died due to the poor conditions on the boats.

The Rohingya, a stateless Muslim minority in Myanmar, are fleeing persecution in their country and poor living conditions in refugee camps that host some 900,000 members of this community in Bangladesh.

The last ship arrived in Malaysia on Monday with 269 Rohingya on board, but authorities were unable to return it to the high seas because its engine was damaged.

Only 70 of the occupants were able to walk on their own due to lack of food and water and all were detained on the island of Langkawi, in north-eastern Malaysia.

Another vessel that was rejected by Malaysia is adrift near the territorial waters of Thailand, although the authorities of this country deny having sighted any ships.

Both ships left Bangladesh last February, so they have been in precarious conditions on the high seas for about four months, lacking food and water.

Malaysian and Thai authorities detain Rohingya as illegal immigrants, and the situation has been further complicated after countries in the region closed their borders due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Southeast Asian governments are cruelly passing the responsibility of protecting Rohingya refugees in desperate search for refuge and a future after the Burmese Army kicked them out of their homes with mass atrocities,” said Brad Adams, HRW director for Asia.

“While Myanmar is basically responsible for the Rohingya refugees’ plight, Malaysia and Thailand should remove their earmuffs and see the risks and suffering they face at sea,” added Adams.

Last May, the European Union called on Southeast Asian countries to rescue Rohingya adrift on the high seas and several UN agencies stated that the governments of the region are obliged to do so out of respect for human rights and international laws on the sea.

The vast majority of Rohingya are stateless people who were stripped of citizenship by the Myanmar government in the early 1990s and have been subjected to discrimination for decades as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, despite having lived in the Rakhine state for generations ( in western Myanmar).

In August 2017, the Myanmar Army launched a military campaign against the Rohingya in northern Rakhine (Arakan), following several attacks by insurgents from the Rohingya Salvation Army of Arakan (ARSA) against police and military posts.

The brutal military operation, in which the Myanmar government faces an accusation of genocide before the International Court of Justice in The Hague, led to the exodus of some 725,000 Rohingya to neighboring Bangladesh, where they continue to be crowded in the largest refugee camp in the world. EFE-EPA


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