Indonesia recovers two bodies after Rohingya boat capsizes off Aceh

By Thomson Reuters Mar 23, 2024 | 9:44 AM

ACEH JAYA, Indonesia (Reuters) – Indonesian authorities recovered two bodies from the shores of West Aceh on Saturday and said local fishermen reported several other drowning victims washed up after a vessel carrying Rohingya migrants capsized off the coast earlier this week.

More than 70 Rohingya were “presumed dead or missing”, which if confirmed would be the biggest loss of life in such an incident so far this year, the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) said on Friday. Seventy-five people were rescued.

“We have evacuated two bodies from the shores. We have identified them both as females,” Mirza Saprinadi, national head of operations at Indonesia’s search and rescue agency, told reporters, adding that immigration officers had confirmed the victims as Rohingya.

The bodies had been carried by the current and local fishermen reported several other drowning victims found along the western shore of Aceh province, on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, Mirza said.

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

More than 2,300 Rohingya arrived in Indonesia last year, UNHCR data showed, surpassing the number of arrivals in the previous four years combined.

The 2023 toll of at least 569 Rohingya dead or missing while trying to flee Myanmar or Bangladesh was the highest since 2014, the UNHCR said in January.

(Reporting by Hidayatullah Tahjuddin in Aceh Jaya, Writing by Bernadette Christina, Editing by Alex Richardson)