Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Indonesia to Send Rohingya to Bangladesh

Rohingya boat people queue for their lunch in a temporary shelter
in Idi Rayeuk district of the Indonesia's Aceh province. (Photo: Reuters)

The Irrawaddy News -AP

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia — Indonesia will send more than 100 Rohingya boat people who washed up on the country's west coast earlier this year to Bangladesh, a government official said Tuesday.

The group of stateless Muslims volunteered to leave after several months in military shelters in Aceh province, Foreign Ministry official Mochamad Asruchin said.

The 114 men washed up along with 277 others in rickety boats in January without food and water. Dozens were admitted for hospital treatment.

They had initially said they were from Myanmar, but none had identification papers. They now say they are Bangladeshi citizens.

Officials in Bangladesh could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday. Bangladesh has in the past said it does not accept the Rohingya as its citizens and would not take unwanted boat people from other countries.

The Rohingya number about 800,000 in Burma, but are not recognized as a distinct ethnicity. Rights groups say they face abuses including forced labor, land seizures and rape. Thousands have risked their lives fleeing to neighboring countries, such as Malaysia, Bangladesh and India.

Their plight recently gained international attention and prompted a regional crisis, straining generally good relations between governments in Southeast Asia.

The Indian navy said hundreds were believed to have drowned after the Thai navy towed their boats out to sea and released them without engines or provisions.

Asruchin said the Rohingyas in Indonesia may be granted refugee status by the United Nations and resettled in a third country.

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