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Dozens of Rohingyas reach Malaysian shores as Thailand closes doors

Dozens of Rohingyas reach Malaysian shores as Thailand closes doors

A boat carrying 56 Rohingya from Myanmar survived a rough weekend storm before being intercepted Tuesday by Malaysia's navy, which allowed the refugees to come ashore there on humanitarian grounds, Malaysian officials said.

"Generally all 56 passengers, mostly children and women, are safe but exhausted and hungry", Malaysian navy chief Admiral Ahmad Kamarulzaman Ahmad Badaruddin told Reuters.

"Maritime has provided initial aid, such as food, drinks and medicine as required", he said in a statement. "The boat and its passengers will be handed the immigration authorities".

"We are serious about handling breaches in Malaysian waters, but on a humanitarian basis, the refugees were given good treatment", he said.

The goal of the mission is to observe first-hand the impact of the crisis in Rakhine State and the conflict in Kachin and Shan states, and to discuss ways to improve the humanitarian response, said spokesman for the UN Secretary-General Stéphane Dujarric.

Sources say that Rae's final report will recommend that Canada declare its willingness to take in Rohingya refugees from both Myanmar and Bangladesh while encouraging other countries to do the same.

On Monday, Malaysian authorities said they had stepped up security in the Malacca Strait and Andaman Sea to intercept boats presumably filled with Rohingya who were seeking to escape the latest wave of violence against their community in Myanmar.

Tight security by Myanmar officials also makes departures hard, though it would not be surprising if a handful of more boats were seen in the near future, she said.

Fortify Rights CEO Matthew Smith said governments in the Southeast Asian region needed to follow their legal obligations to protect Rohingya refugees instead of packing them off to potential death sentences at seas.

Another recommendation is to prosecute those who have caused "the forcible and violent displacement of more than 671,000 Rohingya from Rakhine State in Myanmar".

Fareed Khan, spokesman for the Rohingya Human Rights Network, said in a statement that the report is far from flawless but he praised Rae for raising the possibility of a genocide in progress.

After authorities in Thailand cracked down on regional trafficking networks in 2015, very few Rohingyas have tried to travel towards the region by boat.

Unable to offload their human cargo in Thailand anymore, traffickers abandoned them at sea in large numbers, leaving them trapped on boats with little food and water.

However, it was unclear where the group had sailed from as the Bangladeshi authority said earlier that the group were not from the refugee camps.

Many of those refugees are now residing in sprawling and overcrowded Bangladeshi camps that threaten to be inundated with heavy rains - potentially overwhelming sanitation facilities and leading to outbreaks of water-borne diseases - during the upcoming monsoon season, which begins in May.

Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.



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