21 Rohingya die as boat capsizes off Myanmar

21 Rohingya die as boat capsizes off Myanmar
Updated 20 April 2016

21 Rohingya die as boat capsizes off Myanmar

21 Rohingya die as boat capsizes off Myanmar

YANGON: Witnesses to a boat capsize off Myanmar that left some 21 people dead, including children, say the victims were from the persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority and blamed the tragedy on travel restrictions that forced them to journey by sea.

At least 21 people, including nine children, died after a packed boat capsized in choppy waters as it approached the Rakhine state capital of Sittwe, according to the United Nations.
Most of the passengers were inhabitants of Sin Tet Maw, in Paukaw township, a camp for Rohingya Muslim minority members forced from their homes by bouts of communal violence.
“It (the boat accident) happened because of unsafe transport... we cannot use direct transport (overland) to Sittwe to buy goods or medicine,” Rohingya activist, Kyaw Hla Aung, told AFP from Sittwe.
The boat’s passengers had received special permission to travel by boat to the market in Sittwe from Paukaw — a journey through the mouth of a wide river that then skirts several kilometers around the coast to the capital.
More than 100,000 Rohingya have been forced to live in apartheid-like conditions since unrest between Buddhists and Muslims left hundreds dead in 2012.
Their movement and access to services, including health care, is severely restricted by authorities in the Buddhist-majority country.
Another Rohingya man, Tin Hla, who also lives in the camp of 1,500 people, said his son was unaccounted for among the boat passengers.
“When we need to go to Sittwe, we have to go there in an unsafe way (by sea),” he said, adding that he fears the worst for his son and had traveled to Sittwe to find his body.
Myanmar does not formally recognize the Rohingya as one of the country’s patchwork of ethnic minorities.
A rising tide of Buddhist nationalism has in recent years deepened hostility toward the group — most of whom are rendered stateless by a web of citizenship laws.
Many Rohingya trace their roots in the country back for generations.
But officials routinely refer to them as “Bengalis” — a pejorative term identifying them as outsiders from neighboring Bangladesh.
“This accident serves as a tragic reminder of the vulnerability that many communities and families face in this area of Rakhine,” said Janet Jackson, the UN’s resident and humanitarian co-ordinator in Myanmar.
“Their only option is to use this mode of travel in order to access livelihoods, and other basic services that are essential for a dignified life.”