Asia-PacificHuman RightsMyanmar

Over two dozen Rohingya found starved to death on boat stranded for weeks

Coastguard officials in Bangladesh say they have rescued nearly 400 members of the ethnic Rohingya Muslim minority group aboard a ship that had been marooned at sea for weeks, adding that more than two dozen of them have lost their lives as a result of starvation.

The Bangladeshi coastguard said the ship, which was brought to shore late on Wednesday, had been en route to Malaysia and adrift for weeks when the deaths occurred.

“They were at sea for about two months and were starving,” a coastguard official told Reuters on Thursday, adding that a final decision had been made to send the 382 Rohingya rescued to neighboring Myanmar, where they originally hail from but have faced genocide by the state.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims fled Myanmar in 2017 following a state-sponsored violent crackdown in the northwestern state of Rakhine. Members of the ethnic minority group forced into Bangladesh live in dire conditions and in sprawling refugee camps near the border with Myanmar, which is under investigation at the International Court of Justice for committing acts of genocide against the Rohingya Muslims.

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There are speculations that more boats carrying Rohingya stay adrift at sea, with coronavirus lockdowns in Malaysia and Thailand making it harder for them to find refuge.

Malaysia — a Muslim-majority country — is a favored destination for the desperate Rohingya Muslims, who suffer greatly in Myanmar.

More than 100,000 Rohingya Muslims currently live in Malaysia after fleeing Myanmar, their homeland, where they are nevertheless considered illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Back in February, at least 15 members of the ethnic minority lost their lives when their boat, which was carrying some 130 refugees, capsized in the Bay of Bengal while trying to reach Malaysia.

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Bangladesh also refuses to recognize the Rohingya population as citizens.

The United Nations has described the Rohingya as the most persecuted community in the world.

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