BANGKOK: At least 150 ethnic Rohingya are stranded at sea off Thailand after their boat broke down, activists said on Wednesday, adding that several may have died and urging authorities to rescue the survivors.

Each year many Rohingya, members of a Muslim minority, risk their lives boarding rickety vessels to escape violence in Myanmar and squalor in Bangladesh refugee camps. Many attempt to reach Malaysia.

The number attempting the treacherous journey has surged following deteriorating conditions in the camps and last year’s military coup in Myanmar which brought the army back to power.

The vessel left Bangladesh in late November and began to leak when it was off the coast of Ranong, in southern Thailand, said Chris Lewa, director of rights group the Arakan Project, citing interviews with relatives of passengers.

“(They have) almost run out of food and water on the boat,” she said, adding that men were desperately trying to scoop water out of the vessel. She said those on board said they had seen a Thai navy boat but it did not help.

A Thai navy officer said the boat had not entered Thai waters and was currently in Indian territory. The exact location of the vessel remained unclear.

An Indian Coast Guard official said they had received information about a boat being stranded with people on board but said it was not in Indian waters. The official did not comment when asked where the boat was at present.

Published in Dawn, December 8th, 2022

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