Boat sinks, leaving 23 dead and at least 30 more missing

The bodies of 23 Rohingyas have been recovered after their boat sank while they were attempting to flee Myanmar’s Rakhine state. At least 30 others remain missing, while eight people have been reported as survivors. The survivors revealed that their aim was to reach Malaysia, and they were carrying over 50 passages in total. The boat initially encountered this deadly trouble on Sunday.

Survivors of the recent boat sinking recall being struck by a massive wave near Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine state. They recounted how the smugglers, who had been paid approximately $4,000 per person for the journey to Malaysia, abandoned the boat during the commotion. The bodies of the victims have either been recovered by other boats or washed up on the beach.

Among the deceased victims were 13 women and 10 men. They were all Rohingya Muslims, according to a rescue team interviewed by BBC Burmese. The Rohingya Muslims are an ethnic minority in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar, many of whom sought refuge in Bangladesh in 2017 to escape a brutal military campaign. Even those who remained in Myanmar have been attempting to flee since the military coup in 2021. This perilous sea journey is a common route for thousands of Rohingyas each year, who are fleeing persecution in Myanmar and overcrowded refugee camps in Bangladesh.

Undertaking the treacherous journey across the Andaman Sea in overcrowded fishing boats is always dangerous, particularly during the monsoon storm season. These storms are also currently at their peak. Most Rohingyas attempt to cross between October and May, fully aware of the risks involved. In many cases, they are forced to sell their only assets to finance the journey ahead.