Kuala Lumpur: The Malaysian coast guard on Tuesday intercepted a boat carrying Rohingya refugees and allowed it to disembark at Langkawi island.
A total of 56 people, including women and children, were travelling in the wooden boat that was spotted by the Malaysian coast guard two days ago in southern Thailand, an official told Efe news.
“All 56 passengers, mostly children and women, are safe but tired and hungry,” said the navy chief. “The boat and its passengers will be handed over… to the immigration authorities.”
The refugees were in good health and they were provided with food and water, Rosli added.
On Sunday, the boat had stopped on the Thai island of Lanta due to poor weather and re-stocked fuel and provisions before the Thai authorities allowed it to resume its journey toward Malaysia, home to a significant Rohingya diaspora.
This is the first refugee boat in months that has been spotted in the Andaman Sea, where, in 2015, thousands of Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants were stranded after they were abandoned by traffickers.
Several organisations have warned of a similar exodus as the monsoon season approaches and conditions deteriorate in refugee camps in Bangladesh, where about 700,000 Rohingya have been living in cramped conditions since last year.
The mass exodus of the Rohingya from Myanmar’s Rakhine region began on August 26, 2017, after the military launched an offensive.
Bangladesh and Myanmar signed an agreement to start repatriating the Rohingya late January but Dhaka withdrew from the agreement.
Myanmar does not recognise the Rohingya as citizens.
Many of the Rohingya ensnared in the 2015 boat crisis ended up in Muslim-majority Malaysia and Indonesia because Thailand stuck to a policy of not accepting the vessels.
There are nearly 70,000 Rohingya refugees and asylum-seekers living in Malaysia, according to the most recent statistics from the UN refugee agency.