Indonesian navy tows migrant boat out of waters

Indonesia's navy has sent migrant boats across the Malacca Strait towards Malaysia

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

The Indonesian navy towed a boat carrying around 500 members of the long-persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority out of its national waters on Tuesday.

Indonesia's navy provided food, water and medical supplies to passengers before sending the boat across the Malacca Strait towards Malaysia, a military spokesman said. Four Indonesian navy vessels assisted the boat near the cape of Tanjung Jambu Aye in north Aceh.

The boat drifted into Indonesian territory on Monday. Indonesian authorities found two boats off the country's west coast in two days, carrying hundreds of asylum seekers from Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Navy spokesman Manahan Simorangkir said "they didn't want to go to Indonesia. They wanted to go to Malaysia, so we sent them on their way after providing them with food, water and medical supplies."

Activists warn that as many as 6,000 asylum seekers may be trapped at sea in the Malacca Strait and nearby international waters, with limited access to food and clean water.

Thousands of stateless Rohingya Muslims, who are denied citizenship in their country of birth, have fled violence and poverty in Myanmar since 2012 following attacks by Buddhist mobs

The United Nations' refugee agency says an estimated 25,000 people fled Myanmar and Bangladesh by boat in the first quarter of this year, twice the number of last year. An estimated total of 53,000 left in 2014.

As hundreds die at sea every year, many survivors fall into the hands of people traffickers. Dozens of shallow graves have been unearthed in jungle camps in southern Thailand since early May. These mass graves have raised new concerns about their plight.

TRTWorld and agencies