Dozens of Rohingya Muslims seeking to flee the violence in western Myanmar are believed to have sunk in the Bay of Bengal, according to Bangladeshi officials.
Up to 130 Rohingya are feared dead after their rickety boats failed to negotiate the waters and capsized on their way to refuge in neighboring Bangladesh.
“We have heard from our sources on the ground that there were 130 people on the boat,” said Tun Kin, president of the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK, according to the Independent newspaper.
“We still don’t know where it happened.”
The BBC reported that 13 people were rescued from the sinking boat, which was seeking to transfer passengers to a larger vessell bound for Malaysia.
“The boat was heading to Malaysia illegally," Mohammad Farhad, police inspector at Teknaf on the southeastern tip of Bangladesh, told the Agence France-Presse. "[One male survivor] does not know what happened to the others as it was dark and he was desperate to save his own life.”
Since the outbreak of sectarian violence in Myanmar's Rakhine state between minority Rohingya and majority Buddhists, thousands of Muslims have tried to flee to Bangladesh, an impoverished, overpopulated country that denies them entry.
Within Myanmar itself, Ronhingya are regarded as “illegal” immigrants and denied basic human rights. Over the past week and a half, more than 20,000 Ronhigya have been uprooted from their homes with Myanmar itself.
The Myanmar government declared a curfew in Rakhine, after at least 90 people were killed in the most recent bout of ethnic clashes.
Meanwhile, about 800,000 Rohingya are currently housed in squalid refugee camps in Bangladesh, where they are unwanted.