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Rohingyas victims of Myanmar boat accident: Report

20 April 2016 13:59



The nearly two dozen people who died in a boat incident off Myanmar’s coast are reportedly from the Rohingya Muslim minority fleeing persecution and violence in Myanmar’s western Rakhine State.

At least 21 people, including nine children, drowned after a crammed boat capsized in choppy waters on Tuesday as it approached the Rakhine State capital of Sittwe, the United Nations said.

Most of the passengers were inhabitants of Sin Tet Maw, in Paukaw township, a camp of 1,500 people.

Witnesses to the capsized boat blamed the tragedy on restrictions that forced the victims to make a journey by sea.

“It (the boat accident) happened because of unsafe transport… we cannot use direct transport (overland) to Sittwe to buy goods or medicine,” Rohingya activist, Kyaw Hla Aung said, adding that he had counted 22 bodies in Sittwe and they all were Rohingya.

Another Rohingya man, Tin Hla, who also lives in the camp, said his son was among the boat passengers and is unaccounted for.

“When we need to go to Sittwe, we have to go there in an unsafe way (by sea),” he said.

Janet Jackson, the UN’s resident and humanitarian co-coordinator in Myanmar called the accident “as a tragic reminder of the vulnerability that many communities and families face in this area of Rakhine.”

“Their only option is to use this mode of travel in order to access livelihoods, and other basic services that are essential for a dignified life,” said the official.

The picture taken on June 15, 2015 shows Myanmar Rohingya women arriving at new temporary shelters for Rohingyas in Blang Adoe, North Aceh. © AFP

The Muslim minority group has witnessed attacks by extremist Buddhists in Myanmar. The violence has forced nearly 100,000 of them to flee the country.

According to the United Nations, the Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar are one of the most persecuted minorities in the world. They have faced torture, neglect and repression since Myanmar’s independence in 1948. Rohingya refugees mostly flee to neighboring countries such as Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Myanmar denies citizenship to its 1.3 million Rohingyas, placing restrictions on their movement, marriages, and economic opportunities. The government has been repeatedly criticized by human rights groups for failing to protect the Rohingyas.

Myanmar’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has come under fire for her stance on the violence against Rohingyas. The Nobel Peace laureate has refused to censure the Myanmar military for its persecution of the Muslims.

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