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65 Rohingyas found shipwrecked in Thailand

AFP|
Shipwrecked
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Shipwrecked

A group of 65 Rohingya Muslims have been found on a shipwrecked boat off the coast of southern Thailand, Navy officials said Wednesday as authorities investigated whether they had been trafficked.

The boat was discovered early Tuesday in the Tarutao Marine National Park in southern Thailand, some 400 kilometers (250 miles) from the border of Myanmar.

Reuters
State of the Rohingyas
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State of the Rohingyas

Some 740,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar since a brutal military crackdown in 2017 against the stateless minority in the Buddhist-majority country.

Most have escaped into overcrowded refugee camps in Bangladesh, while others have fallen prey to human trafficking rings as they seek better lives in Malaysia or Thailand.

(In pic: Rohingya refugees in Unchiprang refugee camp, Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh)

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Women on the boat
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Women on the boat

A Thai Navy spokesman said there were 31 women and five children among the Rohingya on the shipwrecked boat.

One Thai man and five Burmese citizens were also in the group. The men said they were fishing in the area and had no link to the Rohingyas.

Reuters
Illegal entry
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Illegal entry

The six men "were detained for questioning because of their suspicious behaviour," Thai Navy spokesman, vice admiral Khan Deeubol, said Wednesday.

A provincial official said the group was initially investigated for illegal entry but the probe had broadened.

"Authorities are not ruling out other issues such as human trafficking," an Internal Security Command (ISOC) source in Satun province said.

Photos from the Thai Navy showed the group on a beach, some eating rice near the marooned ship.

Reuters
Transporting refugees
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Transporting refugees

Bangladeshi authorities have intercepted several suspected traffickers seeking to transport refugees from squalid camps in Cox's Bazaar, where nearly one million Rohingyas are living -- almost all refusing to go back to Myanmar out of fear for their safety and rights.

Myanmar has said the 2017 crackdown was aimed at rooting out insurgents who attacked military posts.

It has signed a repatriation agreement with Bangladesh to return Rohingya refugees, but so far virtually none have volunteered to go back.

United Nations investigators have said the violence amounts to "genocide" and called for the prosecution of top generals.

(In pic: Kutupalong, the largest refugee camp housing.)

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