BANDA ACEH, April 20 — About 80 Rohingya in a wooden boat arrived in Indonesia today, officials said, the latest batch of the vulnerable minority to come ashore in the world’s biggest Muslim majority nation.
The group landed in Aceh province on Sumatra island, just weeks after dozens of the persecuted Muslim minority from Myanmar came ashore in neighbouring Malaysia.
All appeared to be in good condition, according to local police chief Riza Yulianto, who added that it was not clear how long they had been at sea.
“Thank God they’re all healthy even though a few are just children,” he told AFP.
“We have given them food and we are thoroughly checking their health one by one.”
It has been rare for Rohingya migrants to attempt the sea routes south since Thai authorities clamped down on regional trafficking networks in 2015, sparking a crisis across Southeast Asia as large numbers were abandoned at sea.
But there have been concerns desperate migrants might start taking to the high seas again after mainly Buddhist Myanmar launched a new crackdown last year that forced about 700,000 members of the Muslim minority to flee to Bangladesh.
This month, a group including two Rohingya men, aged 28 and 33, a 20-year-old woman, a 15-year-old girl and an eight-year old boy were spotted in a small boat off the coast of southern Thailand and Myanmar, some 325 kilometres from Aceh.
Local Indonesian fishermen took them back to Aceh where they were later taken into custody by immigration officials.
The group said they had been travelling with two dozen other Rohingya but got separated and were stranded at sea for about 20 days.
They had gotten lost with five others who later starved to death and their bodies were thrown overboard, officials said at the time.
In 2015, hundreds of Rohingya came ashore in Aceh, where they were welcomed in the staunchly conservative Islamic province.
Indonesia tends to accept asylum seekers but they are usually barred from working and often spend years in immigration centres. — AFP