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December 2023

Episode: KPN 29-12-2023

Kaladan Radio December 29, 2023 1485 4

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Indonesia’s navy pushes a boat suspected of carrying Rohingya refugees out of its waters

Indonesia’s navy said Thursday that it forcibly pushed a boat packed with refugees back to international waters after the vessel approached the shores of Aceh province.

The province that forms part of Sumatra island has seen an increasing number of arriving boats, most carrying Rohingya refugees from southern Bangladesh. Large numbers of Rohingya fled to Bangladesh in 2017 following military attacks on members of the persecuted Muslim minority in their homeland of Myanmar.

The Indonesian navy said a coast guard vessel detected a boat thought to be carrying Rohingya refugees entering Indonesia’s waters on Wednesday. A helicopter from a navy ship subsequently spotted a wooden vessel nearing Weh island in north Aceh province, the navy said.

The navy ship KRI Bontang-907 located the boat about 63 nautical miles (72 miles) off the Indonesian coast and drove it out, “ensuring that the boat did not return to Indonesian waters,” the navy said in a statement posted in its website.

Indonesia has appealed to the international community for help and intensified patrols of its waters due to a sharp rise in Rohingya refugees leaving overcrowded camps in Bangladesh since November. Over 1,500 Rohingya have arrived in Aceh and faced some hostility from fellow Muslims.

A mob of students on Wednesday attacked the basement of a local community hall in Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh province, where about 137 Rohingya were taking shelter.

Footage obtained by The Associated Press showed a large group of refugees, mostly women and children, crying and screaming as a group wearing university green jackets was seen breaking through a police cordon and forcibly putting the Rohingya on the back of two trucks.

The incident drew an outcry from human rights groups and the U.N. refugee agency, which said the attack left the refugees shocked and traumatized.

Indonesia, like Thailand and Malaysia, is not a signatory to the United Nations’ 1951 Refugee Convention so is not obligated to accept the Rohingya coming from Bangladesh. So far, refugees in distress have received at least temporary accommodations.

Muslims comprise nearly 90% of Indonesia’s 277 million people, and Indonesia once tolerated such landings, while Thailand and Malaysia pushed refugee boats away. But there has been a surge of anti-Rohingya sentiment this year, especially in Aceh, where residents accuse the Rohingya of poor behavior and creating a burden.

The growing hostility of some Indonesians toward the Rohingya has put pressure on President Joko Widodo’s government to take action.

“This is not an easy issue, this is an issue with enormous challenges,” Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi told reporters.

About 740,000 Rohingya were resettled in Bangladesh after fleeing their homes in Myanmar to escape a brutal counterinsurgency campaign by security forces. Accounts of mass rape, murder and the burning of entire villages are well documented, and international courts are considering whether Myanmar authorities committed genocide and other grave human rights abuses.

Efforts to repatriate the Rohingya have failed because of doubts their safety can be assured. The Rohingya are largely denied citizenship rights in Buddhist-majority Myanmar and face widespread social discrimination there.

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