Refugees’ boat sinks, leaving 23 dead and more than 30 others missing

The bodies of 23 Rohingya refugees have been recovered after their boat sank. They were attempting to flee Myanmar’s Rakhine state. The boat, carrying over 50 passengers, was bound for Malaysia when it foundered and was abandoned by its crew. As of now, 30 individuals remain missing, while eight survivors have been accounted for.

The victims of this week’s boat sinking include 13 women and 10 men, all Rohingya Muslims. The survivors revealed that they were struck by a massive wave near Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine state.

These journeys across the Andaman Sea in overcrowded fishing boats are inherently dangerous, particularly during the monsoon storm season. Most Rohingyas attempt to make the crossing between October and May, despite the risks involved. Desperate to escape dire living conditions, they often sell their only assets, such as land, to fund these treacherous trips.

The Rohingya Muslims are an ethnic minority in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar who have faced immense hardships. In 2017, many fled to Bangladesh to escape what the UN described as a possible genocide orchestrated by the Burmese military. Even those who remained in Myanmar have been trying to flee since the military coup in 2021.

The survivors of this week’s boat sinking recall the harrowing moment when the smugglers abandoned them after being paid around $4,000 per person for the journey to Malaysia. The deceased victims’ bodies were either picked up by other boats or washed up on the beach.

The journey undertaken by these refugees is a desperate one, driven by the unrelenting grim conditions they face as refugees in overcrowded camps or as victims of discrimination and movement restrictions in Myanmar. Despite the dangers, they are willing to take the risk in hopes of a chance at a safer and more secure future.