One Survives As Boat Carrying 200 Rohingya Muslims Capsizes In Myanmar


Boats carrying about 200 Rohingya Muslims who were evacuating ahead of a storm have capsized off western Myanmar, killing all but one person, UN officials have said.

The vessels hit trouble on Monday night after leaving Pauktaw township in Rakhine state, said a spokeswoman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

“They were travelling to another camp ahead of the cyclone,” the spokeswoman added.

The victims were trying to escape Cyclone Mahasen which is expected on Thursday and Friday. The UN has warned the storm could lead to “life-threatening conditions”, according to Kirsten Mildren who also works for OCHA, adding that there was only one confirmed survivor from Monday’s accident.

Myanmar state television said on Monday that thousands of people displaced by communal violence last year had been evacuated from makeshift camps to safer ground in the event of the storm.

The report said authorities had moved 5,158 people from low-lying camps in the Rakhine state capital, Sittwe, to safer shelter.

Human rights groups however said that the government has been too slow to act, and ignored earlier warnings to provide shelter to displaced people.

“The Burmese government didn’t heed the repeated warnings by governments and humanitarian aid groups to relocate displaced Muslims ahead of Burma’s rainy season,” said Brad Adams, Human Rights Watch Asia director.

“If the government fails to evacuate those at risk, any disaster that results will not be natural, but man-made,” he said.

The state television report said displaced people were moved in 10 other townships in western Myanmar where communal violence flared last year between Muslims and Buddhists, a violence that claimed hundreds of lives and left more than 100,000 people homeless.

Myanmar is a predominantly Buddhist country but about 5 percent of its 60 million people are Muslims. They face a growing anti-Muslim campaign led by radical Buddhist monks.