Thousands of Rohingyas may have perished at sea, Amnesty International has said in a report detailing systematic abuse in overcrowded boats, based on 100 testimonies of mainly human trafficking victims, including many children.
According to the report, ahead of the new refugee “sailing season” in the region, Rohingyas in Myanmar were beaten and killed by human traffickers when refugee families were not able to pay ransom.
One of Amnesty’s refugee researchers, Anna Shea said that even children were not spared abuse and the daily physical abuse faced by Rohingyas who were trapped on boats in the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea was too horrific to put into words.
In May, Thailand started a campaign against human trafficking after thousands of Rohingyas were abandoned at sea without basic needs, such as food, water and medical care.
Amnesty stated that the number of refugees that lost their lives from January to June was much greater than 370, the estimated number that UN reported before an eyewitnesses told Amnesty that there were dozens of large boats full of Rohingyas at sea, but only five of the boats made it to Indonesia and Malaysia.
Testimonies in the 40-page report indicate the horrifying possibility that thousands of people may have lost their lives on the boats or have been sold as labor workers by human traffickers. Amnesty has said, urging Southeast Asian nations to be careful to avoid further disasters as thousands more could be taking boats.
“Thousands of people will take to boats over the coming months, but so far regional protection mechanisms and search and rescue operations fall far short of what is necessary,” Shea said.
The “lucky” people who were able to arrive ashore said during their interview with Amnesty that people died due to different causes. Some of the refugees were shot by traffickers and others were thrown off board at sea, while many others died due to starvation and sickness.
Furthermore, all the physical and psychological abuse they have been exposed to has been systematic.
“In the morning you were hit three times. In the afternoon you were hit three times. At night you were hit nine times,” a refugee boy told Amnesty.
Tens of thousands of Rohingyas have fled Myanmar by boat to escape from “genocide, torture, arbitrary detention, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by Thein Sein's government and nationalist Buddhist monks” as the human rights groups said.
Myanmar's government doesn't consider the 1.1 million Rohingyas to be citizens.
They were attacked by Buddhist mobs in recent years and more than 100,000 stateless men, women, and children have been subjected to forced migration.
At least 200 people were killed and thousands of Rohingya Muslims referred to as “boat people” were believed to be stranded at the Andaman Sea during the Rohingyan refugee crisis back in May.
In the past three years, over 120,000 Rohingyas have boarded ships to flee abroad, according to the UN refugee agency.
In May, Malaysian authorities uncovered nearly 140 graves containing the bodies of refugees after Thailand found similar mass graves at the beginning of the month.