Thursday, May 14, 2015

More Boat People - More Suffering

Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand have been turning away refugee boats. Several thousand people are believed to be stuck in boats off the coasts of Thailand and Malaysia. Myanmar Rohingya asylum seekers on a boat stranded for a week in the Andaman Sea with no food or water say 10 people have died, while some are resorting to drinking urine. The fishing boat, carrying about 350 people of the Muslim Rohingya minority, has been refused entry to Thailand.

Those on board told the BBC the crew abandoned them and disabled the engine. They said the bodies of those who had died were thrown overboard. The BBC reported that it is a "desperate sight". The migrants - including 50 women and 84 children - said they had been at sea for three months. Regional police official Major General Puttichat Akhachan said: "We declined them entry to the country”

The BBC's Jonathan Head said: "People are calling out to us begging us for food and water. There are a lot of women and children on board. This is a very old-looking fishing boat that's completely packed with people. We can see there are actually people drinking their own urine from bottles. We've been throwing them bottles of water - everything we've got on board." 

A senior Thai official told Reuters news agency on Wednesday that Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia would all continue to turn the boats away. Major Gen Sukhondhapatipak said that the three countries had decided "not to receive boat people".

Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Asia division told the BBC's Newsday: "They're playing a game of marine ping pong not wanting to take in the Rohingya. We need to see the three nations working together rescuing these people first, and then sorting out who's going to take responsibility for them, working with the international community and others. This is an urgent humanitarian crisis and the Thais and others seem to be taking a gentle stroll."

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