YANGON: The bodies of 14 people have washed up on a beach in Myanmar, police said on Monday, with the UN Refugee Agency citing reports that the deceased include Rohingya children.

At least 17 people are feared dead after their boat capsized, according to the UNHCR.

A rescue organisation said the group had been attempting to reach Malaysia.

“Fourteen dead bodies were found, and 35 people including the boat owners were rescued alive,” said Lieutenant Colonel Tun Shwe, a police spokesperson in Pathein district, around 200 kilometres west of Yangon.

Although the full details remain unclear, the UNHCR said the boat reportedly left Sittwe in western Myanmar on May 19 and encountered rough waters, capsizing two days later. A member of Myanmar Rescue Organisation Pathein who requested anonymity said eight bodies were found on Sunday on a beach around three hours from the district capital. A Rohingya activist said that 12 women and two boys had died.

The boat had been carrying people from the western Myanmar towns of Buthidaung, Maungdaw and Sittwe, the activist added, also requesting anonymity.

Survivors told the rescue group that 61 people had been on board the vessel, leaving 12 still missing.

Those who were saved were being held at the Pathein police station, spokesperson Tun Shwe said. He did not saywhether any would be charged — as sometimes happens to Rohingya caught trying to flee Myanmar.

“The latest tragedy shows once again the sense of desperation being felt by Rohingya in Myanmar and in the region,” said Indrika Ratwatte, UNHCR’s Director for Asia and the Pacific.

Published in Dawn,May 24th, 2022

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