Rohingya refugees: 120 missing after boat sinks


A Muslim Rohingya man rests on his fishing boat near the Bawdupha Internally Displaced Persons camp located on the outskirts of Sittwe, capital of Myanmar's western Rakhine state, on Oct. 30, 2012.


Soe Than WIN

At least 120 people are missing and feared drowned after their boat capsized in the Bay of Bengal, BBC News reported.

The boat was packed with Rohingya Muslims who have fled ethnic clashes with local Rakhine Buddhists in Burma's Arakan state recently, according to the Guardian.

Over the past 10 days, some 30,000 Rohingya have left their villages to escape attacks, the Guardian reported. The Economist said the fighting broke out after a Buddhist trader was reportedly murdered by a mob in Mrauk-U for selling a large quantity of rice to Muslims.

More from GlobalPost: Over 22,000 Myanmar Muslims have been displaced, UN claims

Earlier this year, 75,000 Rohingya fled their homes after violence erupted when a group of Muslims was accused of raping and murdering a young Buddhist woman in Rakhine, BBC reported.

Neighboring Bangladesh has closed its border to the refugees, so many Rohingya have moved onto boats or escaped to unpopulated coastal islands, the Guardian reported.

According to the Guardian:

Rohingya campaigners on the Bangladeshi side of the border contacted by the Guardian said they had seen boats full of refugees offshore which were unable to land despite running low on water and food.

Today’s boat sinking occurred when passengers attempted to transfer to a larger ship bound for Malaysia, BBC News reported. Local fishermen rescued 13 people after it capsized.

The estimated 800,000 Rohingya in Myanmar are considered illegal immigrants even though many have lived there for generations, the Guardian reported. This summer, President Thein Sein suggested that the UN resettle Rohingya outside Myanmar.

Last week UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon spoke out against harassment of Muslims in Myanmar, the Guardian reported. "The vigilante attacks, targeted threats and extremist rhetoric must be stopped [or] … the opening up process being currently pursued by the government is likely to be jeopardized,” he said.

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