UN: 180 Rohingya Presumed Drowned

On Sunday, the United Nations expressed fears that a boat carrying about 180 Rohingya who fled camps in Bangladesh has sunk with no survivors after it went missing in the Andaman Sea, with relatives of those onboard having lost contact with them.

UN: 180 Rohingya Presumed Drowned
Image credit: abc

Facts

  • On Sunday, the United Nations expressed fears that a boat carrying about 180 Rohingya who fled camps in Bangladesh has sunk with no survivors after it went missing in the Andaman Sea, with relatives of those onboard having lost contact with them.
  • As around 200 people are already presumed dead or missing, this sinking would make 2022 the third worst year for dead and missing Rohingyas at sea in nearly a decade after 2013 and 2014, when 900 and 700 people died or went missing at sea, respectively.
  • This comes as nearly one million Muslim-majority Rohingya from Myanmar are reportedly living in crowded facilities in Bangladesh, and the number of refugees trying to flee deteriorating conditions in camps has returned to pre-pandemic levels.
  • On Monday, at least 185 Rohingya refugees arrived in the northern Indonesia province of Aceh after weeks at sea and were taken to the village hall to receive help and be identified by immigration officials and police.
  • This was the second boat carrying Rohingyas to have landed in Aceh in the past two days, following a group of at least 57 men who spent a month adrift at sea, as the International Organization for Migration has raised alarms about boats deprived of food and water heading for Malaysia and Indonesia.
  • The United Nations' refugee agency's (UNHCR) Asia-Pacific director Indrika Ratwatte on Friday urged countries in Southeast Asia to help save lives, echoing a call made on Thursday by UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar Tom Andrews. Some 2K Rohingya are estimated to have taken the risky sea journey this year alone.

Sources: Guardian, Reuters, Al Jazeera, ABC, BBC News, and CNN.

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 investigating the scale of human rights abuses and taking action to halt them.
  • Establishment-critical narrative, as provided by DW. It's hypocritical to criticize solely ASEAN when Western democracies have done nothing to help the Rohingya — even though the International Court of Justice has long called for measures to protect those 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 is the world's responsibility.