KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — About 1,600 Rohingya and Bangladeshi refugees have landed in Malaysia and Indonesia in the past day, apparently after human traffickers abandoned their virtual floating prison ships and left the passengers to fend for themselves, officials said Monday.
One group of about 600 people arrived in the Indonesian coastal province of Aceh on four boats Sunday, the same day a total of 1,018 landed in three boats on Malyasia’s northern resort island of Langkawi.
Rohingya Muslims have for decades suffered from state-sanctioned discrimination in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, which considers them illegal settlers from Bangladesh. Attacks on the Rohingya by Buddhist mobs in the last three years have sparked an exodus by sea to nearby countries.
Police found a wooden boat late Sunday night trapped in the sand in shallow waters at a beach in Langkawi that was capable of holding 350 people, said island deputy police chief Jamil Ahmed. Since 865 men, 52 children and 101 women have been counted since then, he said at least two other boats have not been located yet.
Jamil said a Bangladeshi man told police that the boat handlers gave the passengers directions on where to go once they reached Malaysian shores, and escaped in other boats. The migrant said they have not eaten for three days, Jamil said, adding that most of them were weak and thin.
“We believe there may be more boats coming,” Jamil said.
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