JAKARTA: Southeast Asian politicians on Tuesday called for the rescue of a boat carrying up to 200 people Rohingya refugees including women and children stranded at sea for several weeks.
Thousands of Rohingya, mostly Muslims, who are heavily persecuted in Myanmar, risk their lives every year on long and expensive sea journeys – often on board derelict ships – in an attempt to reach Malaysia or Indonesia.
The boat carrying the refugees was reported in waters near Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and India in the Andaman Sea and Strait of Malacca, one of the busiest shipping routes in the world.
“We urgently call on ASEAN member states and other countries in the region to … launch search and rescue operations,” said former Indonesian MP Eva Sundari, a member of the group. Defense of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR). A declaration.
“It is shameful that a boat full of men, women and children in grave danger has been allowed to remain adrift.”
Charles Santiago, a former Malaysian MP and chairman of APHR, said in the same statement that the delay in rescuing stranded refugees “has probably already caused untold suffering and loss of life”.
The ship’s current location is unknown, and it is unclear when or exactly where it departed from.
But at least one relative of a passenger hoping to reach Malaysia told AFP he was taken to the boat in deep waters by a small fishing trawler from Bangladesh.
Sprawling refugee camps in Bangladesh are home to around a million Rohingya, many of whom fled neighboring Myanmar after a military crackdown in 2017 that reported rape, arson and murder.
But dire conditions in overcrowded camps in Bangladesh have forced many to flee again.
Rohingya activists and relatives of some people on board the ship told AFP it had been adrift at sea for at least two weeks.
The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said last week that the boat had been in the waters since late November and had received reports of at least a dozen people dead on board.
Those who remained had no access to food or water, he added.
Noor Habia resident of a Rohingya refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, said her 23-year-old daughter Begum Munuwara was on the stranded boat and had spoken to his sister by walkie-talkie.
“We are in danger. Please save us,” her daughter Begum said, according to an audio clip of the call.
“There is no food or water with us and there is no one to save us from this drowning boat.”
The Indonesian Navy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
On December 8, more than 150 Rohingya were rescued near the Thai coast from a waterlogged boat en route to Indonesia from a refugee camp in Bangladesh, according to the Burmese junta.

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