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January 2024

Episode: KPN 27-01-2024

Kaladan Radio January 27, 2024 1639 6

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569 Rohingya presumed dead at sea last year – UN

At least 569 Rohingya died or have gone missing while fleeing Bangladesh and Myanmar by boat during 2023, the highest in nearly a decade, according to the United Nations.

Thousands of Rohingya each year make perilous sea journeys from crowded camps in Bangladesh and Myanmar trying to reach Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported this week that nearly 4,500 Rohingya took boat journeys on the Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal during 2023.

The majority were women and children, it said.

The reported dead or missing in 2023 were over 200 higher than in 2022 and the highest since 2014, when the total reached 730.

One Rohingya was reported to have died or gone missing for every eight attempting the journey in 2023, making the Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal one of the deadliest stretches of water in the world, the UNHCR added.

The agency said approximately 200 Rohingya died when their boat sank in the Andaman Sea in November 2023.

“These figures provide a chilling reminder that failure to act to save people in distress results in deaths,” UNHCR spokesman Matthew Saltmarsh said.

“More and more desperate people are dying under the watch of numerous coastal states in the absence of timely rescue and disembarkation to the nearest place of safety.”

The agency said survivors shared horrifying accounts of abuse and exploitation during their journeys, including gender-based violence, calling for a regional response to stop further drownings.

Saving lives and rescuing those in distress at sea is a humanitarian imperative and a longstanding duty under international maritime law, it said.

Bangladesh has hosted over 1.1 million Rohingya from Myanmar since the 2017 military crackdown in Rakhine State.

Myanmar faces charges of genocide at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague following the mass exodus.

Myanmar’s regime says it is trying to implement a repatriation program to return Rohingya refugees to Rakhine State with observers dismiss the move as an attempt to salvage its international reputation and help its case at the ICJ.

Human rights groups said safe, dignified returns of Rohingya to Myanmar cannot be guaranteed under a regime that terrorizes Myanmar’s population to prolong its rule.

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