Concerns expressed over death of refugees after boat turned away by Malaysia

Bangladesh says it rescued some 400 Rohingya refugees stranded at sea after their boat was stopped by Malaysia. (AP pic)

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian authorities’ move to turn away hundreds of Rohingya refugees stranded at sea has drawn criticism from the Malaysian Islamic Youth Movement (Abim) and a human rights activist.

“This is unconscionable. Nothing to be proud of,” said lawyer Eric Paulsen, after the Royal Malaysian Navy said it had foiled an attempt by some 200 Rohingya to enter Malaysian territory by boat.

The navy had despatched two ships after the boat was detected.

“Blocking desperate refugees from landing after months/weeks at sea can cause death. The world has seen this repeatedly,” Paulsen said on Twitter.

This comes after another report yesterday that at least 24 Rohingya died at sea after their boat failed to reach Malaysia.

Authorities in Bangladesh said they rescued some 400 Rohingya from the vessel which had been adrift for weeks.

“They were at sea for about two months and were starving,” Reuters quoted an official as saying.

The incident also drew comments from Abim, which said it points to the failure of the United Nations and Asean to address the plight of the Rohingya.

“It is time for Malaysia, Asean and all UN members to find a solution to the plight of the Rohingya Muslims, which has been an issue for decades,” said Abim president Muhammad Faisal.

AFP quoted survivors as saying that 32 Rohingya died aboard the overcrowded vessel “and their bodies were thrown in the sea”.

“We have cordoned off the place where they have landed. We could not question them because of the fear they could be infected with the coronavirus,” a Bangladeshi official told AFP.

More than 740,000 Rohingya fled to neighbouring Bangladesh after ethnic and religious violence in Myanmar in 2017, with thousands paying smugglers to help them reach other countries including Malaysia.

Fake or not? Check our quick fake news buster here.