Myanmar finds 102 migrants stranded on island

Group of 102 men stranded for weeks on southern island picked up by navy boats

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Myanmar's navy has discovered more than 100 migrants stranded for nearly a month on a southern island, state media said on Tuesday.

The discovery follows a regional migrant crisis triggered by a crackdown by Thailand on human trafficking camps along its border with Malaysia. The crackdown has led smugglers to abandon thousands at sea and set them adrift.  

According to Myanmar's state media, the rescued group was entirely comprised of men who had started their journey from neighbouring Bangladesh with the promise of earning more money abroad. They were left on the island in the southern Taninthayi region bordering Thailand a month ago.

This is the second rescue announcement by Myanmar’s navy after a boat packed with more than 700 migrants was found in the Andaman Sea in May.

"The navy is searching the areas and the victims will be sent back to their home country," the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar reported, without providing any information on where the men are currently being held.

“Some said they were forcibly taken from their country, while others reported having been enticed by human traffickers to work in Malaysia,” said the report.

Bangladeshi officials in Myanmar said they were not formally notified about the incident.

"We have just received the news from the media," Tareque Mohammed, the deputy chief of mission in Yangon, told Reuters.

Nearly 2,000 Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar and Bangladesh landed in Indonesia’s Aceh province and the shores of Malaysia earlier in the year. Hundreds of boat people were rescued by fishermen.

The crisis has put intense pressure on South Asian countries, which initially pushed back the boats packed with hungry, thirsty and sick people, including women and children.

Malaysia and Indonesia offered settlement for those who are rescued for a year, but Thailand has so far refused to follow. Bangladesh accepted only around 150 people, but the rest remain in the border camps, their futures undecided.

The UN estimates that thousands of migrants are still adrift in the Andaman Sea.

Rohingya Muslims are not considered to be citizens by Myanmar because the country claims that they are ‘illegal immigrants’ from Bangladesh, despite having lived in the country for generations.

Rohingya Muslims have been attacked by Buddhist mobs in recent years and thousands of men, women, and children have been subjected to forced migration.

According to the United Nations, the Rohingya are the most persecuted minority on the planet.

TRTWorld and agencies