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Rohingya Perish as Boats Evading Cyclone Capsize

Tuesday, May 14, 2013
PHUKET: Rohingya boats attempting to escape an approaching cyclone have overturned off west Burma with scores missing, feared dead, according to reports.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs told AP that eight bodies had been found and more than 50 other people are unaccounted for.

Up to five boats are said to have left Pauktaw township late on Monday with the intention of escaping an approaching cyclone.

Survivors have said that one of the boats was towing the others and hit a rock, causing all to capsize.

Human Rights Watch fears that Cyclone Mahasen will devastate low-lying camps for displaced Rohingya and today called on the government of Burma to act.

Thousands of Rohingya were left without homes when Buddhists in Rakhine state torched houses belonging to their stateless Muslim neighbors in outbreaks of violence last year.

As a result of brutal persecution and lack of aid, more than 30,000 Rohingya are believed to have set sail between October and April with the intention of seeking sanctuary in a third country.

Without homes, women and children joined their menfolk at sea for the first time. Two thousand Rohingya are being held in Thailand while a decision is made about their status and their future.

Detainees interviewed by Phuketwan say they have no desire to be repatriated to Burma where they are denied citizenship, and where they believe they would face certain death.

Burma's leader Thein Sein and oppostion icon Aung San Suu Kyi have been visiting country after country, reaping praise for Burma's new economic openness, but seldom facing questions about alleged ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya

The US-Asean Business Council said it would be holding a dinner for Thein Sein next Monday. That's likely to be followed by a visit to the US.

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