Indonesian fishermen rescue dozens of Rohingya after boat capsizes

By Thomson Reuters Mar 20, 2024 | 3:51 AM

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesian fishermen were scrambling on Wednesday to rescue dozens of Rohingya after high tides capsized their boat in waters off the province of Aceh, a regional fishing chief said, making them the latest arrivals in the Southeast Asian nation.

The United Nations’ refugee agency estimates about 2,000 Rohingya have arrived since last October, among droves of the persecuted religious minority in Myanmar who fled to Indonesia over the past year, most of them to Aceh.

More than 50 Rohingya were standing on a hull near the city of Meulaboh in West Aceh after the boat capsized in high tides, said Miftach Tjut Adek, chief of the fishing community in the province.

“We, as fishermen, are obligated to help them,” he told Reuters, adding that the rescuers braved inclement weather to take them off the sinking structure.

Reuters could not immediately determine how many Rohingya were in the waters or where they were headed.

The regional government of West Aceh and the UNHCR refugee agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

For years, Rohingya have left Buddhist-majority Myanmar where they are generally regarded as foreign interlopers from South Asia, denied citizenship and subjected to abuse.

The Rohingya take to wooden boats each year, when the seas are calmer between November and April, destined for neighbouring Thailand and Muslim-majority Bangladesh, Indonesia and Malaysia.

The 2023 toll of at least 569 Rohingya dead or missing while trying to flee Myanmar or Bangladesh was the highest since 2014, the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in January.

(Reporting by Stanley Widianto; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)