DHAKA, 11 Feb 2020:
At least 15 people were killed today, including four children, and dozens are missing after a boat carrying mostly members of the Rohingya minority sank off the coast of Bangladesh.
“We have so far rescued 15 dead bodies which include 11 women and four children,” said Joynal Abedin – commanding officer of the navy ship engaged in search and rescue operations.
“We also rescued 69 people alive.”
Abedin said that a boat with around 130 people aboard, most of them members of the mainly-Muslim Rohingya minority, sank around 3am in the Bay of Bengal near the southern island of Saint Martin.
“Most of them are Rohingyas. Only two are Bangladeshis,” the official said. “The rescued people told us they were going to Malaysia by boat.”
Bangladeshi authorities have mobilised four navy ships, one from the coastguard and a helicopter to look for the missing people and locate a second boat – which, according to the testimony of the rescued refugees, left the southeastern city of Teknaf at the same time as their boat.
“We were also looking for it. But so far no trace of it,” Abedin said.
Nearly 738,000 Rohingya refugees are living in camps in Bangladesh since 25 Aug 2017, following a wave of persecution and violence in Myanmar that the UN has described as a textbook example of ethnic cleansing and possible genocide.
Myanmar does not use the Rohingya term and also doesn’t recognise them as its citizens, arguing they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants use the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea as a maritime route to enter other countries of the continent in search of better opportunities.
The incident comes as the International Criminal Court, based in The Hague, investigates the Myanmar army for alleged crimes against the Rohingya minority.
In November, the West African nation of The Gambia filed a lawsuit against Myanmar in the International Court of Justice for alleged genocide against the Rohingya minority.