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The baby born on a boat off Thailand's Andaman coast has no homeland

Boy Born on Boat Has Uncertain Future

Monday, February 4, 2013
PHUKET: His name is Muhamad Hamid and he is perhaps destined to remain a symbol of the hopelessness of the Rohingya cause.

He was born at sea on a boat on December 24, but because his people are stateless and unwanted, there is no official record of his birth.

He has no homeland, no place of belonging.

His birth came on the eleventh day at sea as his mother, NuRu, 34, and her companions fled persecution and ethnic cleansing in Burma.

Fortunately it rained on each of the days following Muhamad's birth, enabling him to be washed. Otherwise, precious drinking water would have had to be used.

By December 27 the Rohingya boat had landed in Thailand, on the Andaman coast north of Phuket.

Muhamad is now a name on the list of women and children being held at a refuge for women and children in Phang Nga, the province north of Phuket.

On the boat were two other pregnant women, one due in four months and another due in two months.

Women and children are likely to flee in larger numbers as the campaign to drive them and all Rohingya from the Burmese state of Rakhine intensifies.

Since communal violence wracked the state in June, almost 20,000 Rohingya have put to sea in an exodus that shows no sign of slowing.

The figure documents only departures from around the border of Bangladesh and Burma, where keeping records is possible.

Further south around the township of Sittwe, where most of the ethnic cleansing is taking place, records cannot be kept. However, a similar number of Rohingya is likely to have left from there.

Most of the boats with women and children on board seem to have departed because life for Rohingya families in and around Sittwe is being made unbearable.

Families are split up in Thailand, where the future of about 1500 Rohingya is currently being debated while they wait in refuges and detention centres.

This year, perhaps for the first time, the exodus is likely to continue beyond the safe ''sailing season'' between the monsoons.

Agencies working with the Rohingya report that many family members are eventually reunited, having departed on different boats perhaps years apart.

The saddest thing, agency workers say, is that about one in every four or five boats sink, and usually there are no survivors and no one to say why family members will not be arriving.

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