SITTWE, Myanmar: Myanmar’s navy has carried out its first rescue of a migrant boat, bringing 208 people to shore, an official told AFP Friday, as it faced mounting international pressure to tackle a regional migration crisis.
“A navy ship found two boats… on May 21 while on patrol,” Tin Maung Swe, a senior official in the western state of Rakhine told AFP, adding “about 200 Bengalis were on one of the boats”.
“Bengalis” is a term often used pejoratively by Myanmar officials to describe the Muslim Rohingya minority, 1.3 million of whom live in the country but are not recognized as citizens.
The Thai-owned boat was guided to shore before dawn on Friday in Maungdaw township — the departure point for many Rohingya boats headed south through the Bay of Bengal.
The second vessel was empty, Tin Maung Swe said.
“Necessary medical healthcare and foods have been provided them (the 208) at a temporary camp in Maungdaw,” he said.
“All of the 208 on board are from Bangladesh,” he added, repeating Myanmar’s official line that the migrants are from over the border.
On Thursday foreign ministers of Malaysia and Indonesia—destination points for Rohingya fleeing persecution—met Myanmar officials as pressures mounts to stem the migrant exodus from its shores.
Earlier this week, Malaysia and Indonesia relented on a hardline policy of pushing back the boats, and said their nations would accept the migrants for one year, or until they can be resettled or repatriated with the help of international agencies.