Rohingyas: Dying in Indonesia better than being in Myanmar
Rohingyas said the group had been intercepted by the Myanmar navy after fleeing and were beaten and then released.
Indonesia said on Thursday it was still assessing what to do with a group of 193 Rohingya boat people, as one of the migrants said they would rather die than be sent back to Myanmar where they would face death.
The all-male group of Rohingyas, members of a stateless Muslim ethnic minority from the northwest of army-controlled Myanmar, were found floating at sea in a wooden boat on Jan. 7 and taken to a naval base in Sabang in Aceh province.
"We have heard we'd be sent back to Myanmar," a sobbing Noor Mohammad, one of the group who was being treated in hospital, told Al Jazeera English Television.
"In that case we will ask the Indonesians to kill us. Better we die in the hands of Muslims," added Mohammad. "If we go back, we'll definitely be killed."
He said the group had been intercepted by the Myanmar navy after fleeing and were beaten and then released.
"We were told by the navy not to come this way again and to tell others to also not come this way," he said, adding they were then given some fuel, a compass and directions to Thailand.
"When we got to Thailand we were tortured and detained," he added.
The comments are in line with allegations made to Reuters soon after the group arrived in Indonesia.
Imam Husen told Reuters from his hospital bed that he and about 580 other Rohingyas had set off from Mundu in Myanmar in four boats on Dec. 9 to flee the predominantly Buddhist country.
He said some members of the group had been beaten after landing in Thailand. They were then towed out to sea and set adrift.
Indonesia's government in a preliminary probe concluded that the men were economic migrants and thus could be sent back.
The government said 17 of them were Bangladeshi and the rest from Myanmar and that it had now sent another team to interview each member to clarify their motives for fleeing.
Kristiarto Legowo, the foreign ministry's director for East Asia and Pacific, said Jakarta would consider humanitarian factors as well as the law before deciding what to do.
Sabang mayor, Munawar Liza Zainal, said the health of the Rohingyas had improved since they first arrived but their spirits were still low.
The 800,000 Rohingyas living in Myanmar are not officially recognised by the ruling military junta and face persecution in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar. About 28,000 are living in UNHCR refugee camps in Bangladesh.
Amnesty International said in a 2005 report that Rohingyas are denied citizenship in Myanmar, where they are sometimes forced to work on military projects and face land seizures, house destruction and extortion.
Reuters Last Mod: 29 Ocak 2009, 16:14