Indonesia rescues 198 more Rohingyas off Aceh after 21 days
Indonesian authorities have rescued 198 boat people from Myanmar, some of whom were in critical condition, officials said.
Indonesian authorities have rescued 198 boat people from Myanmar, some of whom were in critical condition, found floating in a wooden boat off the coast of Aceh after 21 days at sea, officials said on Tuesday.
The all-male group, who had not eaten for a week, was found in the early hours of Tuesday by local fisherman, vice head of East Aceh district, Nasrudin Abubakar, said by telephone.
"They have been sailing for 21 days, using eight to nine wooden boats, but only one wooden boat was saved," said Abubakar, adding that one of the survivors was 13 years old and 20 had been hospitalised.
He said that based on conversations the men had with local fishermen and using sign language 22 of the group had died at sea and they had said they were fleeing because they were afraid they would be killed in their country.
The group was initially been taken to a navy base in Aceh but was now being looked after in the local district office in Idie Rayeuk, except for those hospitalised, said Abubakar.
Abdul Munir, another local official, said some of the men had been in critical condition when found.
"They used boats with no engines and their condition was pitiful," said Munir, adding that the men said that the corpses of the 22 who had died had been thrown into the sea.
On Jan. 7, a group of 193 Rohingyas, members of a stateless Muslim ethnic minority from the northwest of army-controlled Myanmar, were also found floating at sea in a wooden boat and taken to a naval base in Sabang in Aceh.
Indonesia is investigating their case but despite pleas from some of the men that they faced death in Myanmar if sent back, Jakarta has said so far it considers they are economic migrants, who would be deported under Indonesian law.
There has been increased focus on the plight of the former Burma's estimated 800,000 Rohingya, since recent accusations against the Thai military over their treatment of hundreds who flee in rickety wooden boats every year in search of better lives.
Members of the group that landed in Indonesia in January said they had first arrived in Thailand where they alleged they were beaten and later cast adrift.
The Thai army has admitted to towing hundreds far out to sea before cutting them adrift, but has insisted they had adequate food and water and denied persistent reports the boats' engines were sabotaged.
Of 1,000 Rohingya given such treatment since early December, 550 are feared to have drowned.
It was not immediately clear if the latest group had stopped in any other country during their journey.
According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 230,000 Rohingya now live in Bangladesh, having fled their ancestral homes in northwest Myanmar after decades of abuse and harassment at the hands of its Buddhist military rulers.
Reuters Last Mod: 03 Şubat 2009, 15:32