Yayan Zamzami, Banda Aceh, Indonesia – More than 100 hungry and weak Rohingya Muslims were found on a beach in Indonesia's northernmost province of Aceh on Sunday after weeks at sea, officials said.
The group arrived on Jangka beach near Alue Buya Pasi, a fishing village in Bireuen district, early Sunday. The villagers who saw the 114 ethnic Rohingya on a rickety wooden boat helped them to land and then reported their arrival to authorities, said Badruddin Yunus, the leader of the local tribal fishing community.
"They look very weak from hunger and dehydration after a long and severe voyage at sea," said Yunus, adding it wasn't clear where the group was traveling from or where it was headed because none of them could speak English or Malay.
The 58 men, 21 women and 35 children were given shelter and received help from villagers, police and military, while local authorities including the coronavirus task force were helping to process them, Yunus said.
More than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled from Buddhist-majority Myanmar to refugee camps in Bangladesh since August 2017, when the Myanmar military launched a clearance operation in response to attacks by a rebel group. Myanmar security forces have been accused of mass rapes, killings and the burning of thousands of homes.
Groups of Rohingya have attempted to leave the crowded camps in Bangladesh and travel by sea in hazardous voyages to other Muslim-majority countries in the region.
Muslim-dominated Malaysia has been a common destination for the boats, and traffickers have promised the refugees a better life there. But many Rohingya refugees who land in Malaysia face detention.
Although Indonesia is not a signatory to the United Nations' 1951 Refugee Convention, the UNHCR said that a 2016 presidential regulation provides a national legal framework governing the treatment of refugees on boats in distress near Indonesia and to help them disembark.
These provisions have been implemented for years, most recently in December when 105 Rohingya refugees were rescued off the coast of Bireuen toward its neighboring Lhokseumawe, a coastal town in the North Aceh district.