Around 120 Rohingya refugees are missing after their boat capsized in the Bay of Bengal, according to Bangladeshi police. Survivors have said that many of the people on the boat were Rohingya Muslims who are trying to flee ethnic violence in Burma.
Local fishermen were able to rescue 13 people from the boat, which sank while transferring passengers over to a larger ship that was bound for Malaysia, reports the BBC.
More than 20,000 Muslims have been displaced by the conflict in Burma, which erupted in Rakhine state 10 days ago. More than 80 people have been killed in the violence, while thousands of homes have been burned to the ground.
Clashes in Rakhine in western Burma earlier this year displaced more than 70,000 Rohingya Muslims, with the violence sparked by the rape and murder of a young Buddhist woman in the province.
Al Jazeera notes that Mohammad Farhad, police inspector of Teknaf on the southeast tip of Bangladesh, stated that one survivor from the ship believed there were about 135 people on board.
The survivor, a 24-year-old man, was being held in custody. Farhad stated:
“The boat was heading to Malaysia illegally. He does not know what happened to the others as it was dark and he was desperate to save his own life.”
Chris Lewa, the Bangkok-based director of The Arakan Project, a Rohingya advocacy group, announced:
“We learned that an overcrowded boat with 133 people on board, which was leaving for Malaysia. Six survivors have been rescued by fishing boats. The others are missing.”
Since the unrest began 10 days ago, Bangladesh has been turning away boatloads of Rohinga Muslims fleeing from Burma. Many refugees now head to Malaysia.