Third batch of around 250 Rohingya arrive in Indonesia
About 250 desperate Rohingya refugees reached western Indonesia on a decrepit, overcrowded wooden boat on Thursday, bringing the total number reported by local officials to have arrived this week to nearly 600, AFP reports.
The boat holding the members of the persecuted Myanmar minority, many barefoot and some pleading for help, sat just off the coast in the archipelago nation’s Aceh province.
Some made a dash for shore after residents refused to let them land, collapsing to the sand and begging for the vessel’s exhausted passengers to be allowed to disembark.
The mostly Muslim Rohingya are heavily persecuted in Myanmar and thousands risk their lives each year on long and expensive sea journeys, often in flimsy boats, to try to reach Malaysia or Indonesia.
Men, women, children and babies could be seen looking to shore as angry locals told them not to land the boat, which some on board said had sailed from Bangladesh.
Young men on board held their arms out in exasperation as the open-topped boat listed to one side through overcrowding.
The local Acehnese delivered food to the boat in the hope those on board would decide to move on, according to Mukhtaruddin, village head of Pulo Pineung Meunasah.The passengers, however, were insistent after almost three weeks at sea.
After climbing down ropes to swim to shore and remonstrate with the Acehnese, one Rohingya man covered in plasters lay on the sand barefoot, shirtless, appearing almost lifeless.
The rest of Thursday’s arrivals were still waiting on the boat about 100 metres from the beach, Mukhtaruddin said.
Rohingya refugee Manzur Alam told AFP the boat had left Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh — home to almost a million Rohingya refugees — 20 days ago with 249 people on board.
Mukhtaruddin estimated there were “between 250 and 260” refugees on the boat or the beach.
Three people, including Alam, gave different passenger breakdowns but all said mostly women and children were on board.
“There are many babies, little children, please protect them, they are very hungry because they didn’t get anything,” said Alam, 23.
Some of the Rohingya men straddled the vessel’s sides, using their hands to shield their faces from the sun as they looked for answers on shore.