Activists, UN Appeal For Rescue Of Rohingya Refugees Stranded At Sea

On Saturday, Médecins Sans Frontiers called on Malaysia to allow a group of some 160 Rohingya refugees to disembark safely as several activists demand urgent assistance to rescue them from a damaged boat.

Activists, UN Appeal For Rescue Of Rohingya Refugees Stranded At Sea
Image credit: UNICEF [via UN News]

Facts

  • On Saturday, Médecins Sans Frontiers called on Malaysia to allow a group of some 160 Rohingya refugees to disembark safely as several activists demand urgent assistance to rescue them from a damaged boat.
  • This comes after the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) on Thursday urged countries in Southeast Asia to help the refugees who have reportedly been adrift in the Andaman Sea for more than a week.
  • They are reportedly in an unseaworthy boat whose engines broke down on Dec. 1, with those on board allegedly suffering extreme dehydration and having been without food and water for days.
  • In a separate incident, Vietnam's state media reported late on Thursday that a Vietnamese oil service vessel spotted and rescued another 154 Rohingya Muslims, including 40 women and 31 children, from a sinking boat in the Andaman Sea, handing them over to Myanmar's navy.
  • Despite repeated pleas to authorities, Thailand's navy allegedly refused to rescue the Rohingya, arguing they were not in its waters but in Indian territory — a claim denied by India. It remains unclear where they were taken after being saved, and no reports have confirmed the number of fatalities.
  • Earlier this month, the UNHCR reported that some 1.9K Rohingya refugees have risked their lives to leave Myanmar and Bangladesh by sea this year, with about 119 people dying or missing on these journeys.

Sources: Guardian, Al Jazeera, Daily Star, Reuters, and Rohingyakhobor.

Narratives

  • Pro-establishment narrative, as provided by Al Jazeera. The Rohingya people have desperately risked their lives crossing the ocean for years, trying to find a safe place to live after suffering human rights abuses in Myanmar. This crisis has exposed structural flaws in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), as its rules made it possible for Myanmar to prevent regional powers from understanding the scale of human rights abuses and taking action to halt them.
  • Establishment-critical narrative, as provided by DW. It is hypocritical to criticize solely ASEAN when Western democracies have done nothing to help Rohingya even though the International Court of Justice has long called for measures to protect those being persecuted. While this is likely to be a consequence of fears that Myanmar would strengthen ties with Beijing if pressed, not acting to preserve the universal validity of human rights can only damage the West's reputation — the plight of the Rohingya at sea are the world's responsibility.