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63 Rohingya rescued off Indonesia

01 March 2013, 12:19

Idi Rayeuk - Fishermen in western Indonesia rescued more than 60 ethnic Rohingya asylum-seekers from Myanmar found adrift in a wooden boat, police said Friday, in the second such arrival this week.

The vessel with no engine had 23 children on board and was found drifting off the eastern coast of Sumatra island near the province of Aceh.

"Fishermen found the boat with 63 Rohingya late on Thursday afternoon around 160km from the coastal town of Idi Rayeuk. They then towed the boat to shore," East Aceh district police chief Muhajir said.

"All we know is they are from Myanmar. We don't know where exactly the boat sailed from as they're too tired and hungry to be interviewed and we're having problems communicating," said Muhajir, who goes by one name.

The asylum-seekers were being held in an immigration office in the nearby town of Langsa, and were likely to be transferred to a detention centre, Muhajir said.

Fishermen in Sumatra rescued 121 Rohingya on Tuesday, with one claiming Thai authorities had shot at them and taken their food and petrol supplies to sabotage their boat as they crossed Thai waters.

Thai authorities are cracking down on Rohingya refugees entering the country, turning around a boat in January with 200 Rohingya in its waters, pushing them towards a third country.

"Considering the situation in Myanmar and Thailand, we're expecting to find more Rohingya in boats around here," Muhajir said.

The UN considers the Rohingya, a stateless Muslim ethnic group, one of the most persecuted minorities in the world, and Myanmar views its roughly 800 000 Rohingya as illegal Bangladeshi immigrants, denying them citizenship.

Buddhist-Muslim unrest in the western Myanmar state of Rakhine has left at least 180 people dead and more than 110 000 displaced since June 2012.



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