Sixty-three Rohingya Muslims, including 23 children, fleeing the violence in Myanmar have been found adrift in a wooden boat in western Indonesia, in the second such event this week.
Indonesia police said on Friday that the vessel was found by fishermen with no engine while drifting off the eastern coast of Sumatra island near Aceh Province.
“Fishermen found the boat with 63 Rohingya late Thursday afternoon around 160 kilometers (100 miles) from the coastal town of Idi Rayeuk. They then towed the boat to shore,” provincial police chief Muhajir said.
“All we know is they are from Myanmar. We don’t know where exactly the boat sailed from as they’re too tired and hungry to be interviewed and we’re having problems communicating,” he added.
The Rohingya asylum seekers were sent to an immigration office in the nearby Langsa town, Muhajir said, adding that they would be transferred to a detention centre.
On Tuesday, Indonesian fishermen also rescued 121 Rohingya Muslims, including six women and two children under the age of five, about 25 kilometers north off the coast Aceh Province.
One of the survivors reportedly said that Thailand authorities had shot at them and taken their food and petrol supplies as they passed Thailand’s waters.
Recently, another boat was found off Sri Lanka’s coast, with 33 dehydrated Rohingya refugees and 97 dead. The surviving passengers said Thai military had taken the boat’s engine and left them to float at sea for 25 days without water and food before being rescued.
“Considering the situation in Myanmar and Thailand, we’re expecting to find more Rohingya in boats around here,” Muhajir also said.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugee has 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.