Boat carrying Rohingya arrives in Malaysia

04 Apr 2018 / 07:59 H.

KUALA LUMPUR: A boat carrying dozens of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar arrived in Malaysia today and will be allowed to enter the country, but an expert played down fears of a new exodus.
It has been rare for Rohingya migrants to attempt the sea routes south since Thai authorities clamped down on regional trafficking networks in 2015, sparking a crisis across Southeast Asia as large numbers were abandoned at sea.
But there have been concerns desperate migrants might start taking to the high seas again after mainly Buddhist Myanmar launched a new crackdown last year that forced about 700,000 members of the stateless Muslim minority to flee to Bangladesh.
Local authorities intercepted the Rohingya boat off Langkawi, after it was first spotted at the weekend off Thailand, said Royal Malaysian Navy chief Admiral Tan Sri Ahmad Kamarulzaman Ahmad Badaruddin.
"All 56 passengers, mostly children and women, are tired and hungry but safe," he said.
"We have provided them with water, food and other humanitarian assistance. The boat and its passengers will be handed over ... to the immigration authorities."
The coastguard said there were 19 men, 17 women, 12 girls and eight boys on the boat.
The navy and coastguard had stepped up patrols around Langkawi – where Rohingya have come ashore in the past – after the boat was spotted of Thailand's west coast at the weekend and its passengers said they were trying to reach Malaysia.
Chris Lewa, of Rohingya advocacy group the Arakan Project, said the vessel was thought to have left a week ago from the Rakhine state capital Sittwe. She did not expect many more to be following.
"April is the end of the sailing season so we don't expect many boats now," Lewa told AFP.

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