International

UNHCR Urges Immediate Action As 400 Rohingya Muslims Stranded On Adrift Boats Face Looming Threat

Amidst the vast expanse of the Andaman Sea, 400 Rohingya Muslims teeter on the brink of catastrophe as they languish aboard two stranded boats, prompting urgent pleas from the UN refugee agency for immediate international intervention.

Rohingya refugee crisis
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The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) raised concerns on Monday about the plight of approximately 400 Rohingya Muslims stranded on two boats in the Andaman Sea, reportedly running out of supplies. Babar Baloch, the regional spokesperson for UNHCR based in Bangkok, emphasized the urgent need for rescue efforts, expressing fears that without assistance, those on board could face a dire fate,  as reported by AP.

According to reports, the boats set sail from Bangladesh around two weeks ago, with the captain of one vessel, Maan Nokim, revealing to the Associated Press on Saturday that they were now without food and water, and the engine was damaged. Nokim, deeply concerned about the well-being of the 180 to 190 people on board, conveyed their collective fear of impending tragedy.

As of Sunday, one boat was approximately 320 kilometers from Thailand's west coast, though Thai navy officials had not received any information about the distressed vessels as of Monday. The proximity to Indonesia's Aceh province, where another boat recently landed with 139 people on board, adds to the urgency of the situation.

Baloch highlighted the familiar pattern of Rohingya seasonal migration, often stemming from overcrowded refugee camps in Bangladesh. Since August 2017, around 740,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar due to a brutal counterinsurgency campaign, seeking refuge in camps in Bangladesh. Allegations of mass rapes, killings, and the destruction of Rohingya homes by Myanmar security forces have led to international scrutiny and legal considerations of genocide.

The refugees attempting sea journeys typically aim to reach Muslim-majority Malaysia for work, with some boats heading towards Thailand. However, these countries often turn away or detain Rohingya refugees. Baloch warned that without prompt assistance to the two adrift boats, the world could witness a tragedy similar to the December 2022 incident when a boat with 180 people went missing, marking one of the darkest episodes in the region.

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