Tuesday, 5 November 2013

No sign of more survivors in Myanmar boat sinking

Family members are scouring the coastline off western Myanmar a day after a boat carrying at least 70 Muslim Rohingya capsized. Only eight people are believed to have survived.

The overloaded boat was in the Bay of Bengal and headed for Bangladesh when it sank early Sunday, just four hours into the journey.

Community leader Aung Win says many women and children were on board and were hoping to reach third countries.

He says there were no new reports of survivors Monday. Only a few bodies have been recovered.

Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist nation, has been gripped by sectarian violence in the last year. Many of the 240 people killed and 240,000 others forced to flee their homes have been Rohingya.

Aid agencies have warned of a growing exodus of Rohingyas, who have been displaced by communal violence, attempting the dangerous sea journey.

The boat was thought to be bound for Malaysia, where thousands of Rohingyas have sought sanctuary since violent clashes with Buddhists erupted last year.

Over the past two years, hundreds of thousands of minority Muslims have been forced to flee Burma.

The United Nations describes them as a persecuted religious and linguistic minority from western Burma.

The Burmese government, on the other hand, says they are relatively recent migrants from the Indian sub-continent.

Neighbouring Bangladesh already hosts several hundred thousand refugees from Burma and says it cannot take any more.

Many Rohingya Muslims are living in tents or temporary camps.

Aid agencies say the relentlessly grim conditions will push record numbers out to sea, in flimsy boats, where they are very vulnerable to bad weather, engine failure, or being sold by people-traffickers in Thailand.

The United Nations said on Friday that more than 1,500 people have tried to leave by boat in the past week.

The BBC's Jonathan Head in Bangkok says Burmese authorities have done little to improve the situation of the Rohingyas, despite repeated international appeals.

They are still subjected to forced segregation, denied access to schools and hospitals, and barred from travelling or having more than two children without permission, our correspondent says.

Rohingyas, whom the UN describes as a persecuted religious and linguistic minority from western Burma, are not recognised as Burmese citizens.

Tuesday 05 November 2013




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