Dozens of Rohingya refugees drown off Malaysia coast
A search and rescue operation had been launched, but another official told AFP news agency that no bodies or survivors had been found.
A Rohingya refugee is feared to be the only survivor from a boat carrying around two dozen asylum seekers. The refugees are believed to have run into difficulty off the Malaysian coast near Thailand, a coastguard official said on Sunday.
Mohamad Zawawi Abdullah, coastguard chief for the northern states of Kedah and Perlis, said police detained the 27-year-old named Nor Hossain after he swam to the shore of the island of Langkawi.
“Based on the police’s information, the Rohingya refugee had jumped off the boat that had 24 other people and that he was the only one who managed to swim to the shore safely,” Zawawi said.
A search and rescue operation had been launched, but another official told AFP news agency that no bodies or survivors had been found. It was not clear what happened to the boat.
Muslim-majority Malaysia is a favored destination for Rohingya, who face persecution in their mostly Buddhist homeland of Myanmar.
But the Malaysian authorities have, in recent months, been trying to stop them entering over coronavirus fears.
Many of the 700,000-plus Rohingya who fled a military crackdown in Myanmar three years ago have attempted to leave overcrowded refugee camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district on boats headed for Malaysia and neighboring Indonesia.
Zawawi said two coastguard aircraft and two boats had been deployed to search the suspected area.
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic, Malaysia has stepped up maritime patrols in a bid to stop Rohingya boats from landing.
Although some have made it ashore, many boats have been turned back, sparking anger from rights groups.
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