January 22, 2009 / 7:53 AM / 9 years ago

Indonesia considers fate of stranded Rohingyas

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia will decide next week the fate of 193 Rohingya boat people found stranded on a small island off Aceh province earlier this month, a foreign ministry spokesman said on Thursday.

The Rohingyas are Muslims from Myanmar. Many have fled the Buddhist-dominated, army-ruled country to escape repression and economic hardship,

Indonesian authorities have sent the latest group of Rohingya migrants to Sabang naval base in Aceh province, with some of them suffering from dehydration and injuries.

“We have to consider the matter very carefully because it involves several countries and should be handled well,” Foreign ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyahhe said.

Rights groups say hundreds of Rohingyas were recently detained on a remote Thai island before being forced back to sea by the security forces with little food or water.

A Thai colonel at the heart of the allegations denied any abuse on Tuesday, saying he had gave the Rohingyas food and water and helped them on their way.

About 28,000 Rohingyas recognised as refugees are living in UNHCR camps in Bangladesh, many have been there since 1992 after fleeing persecution in their home country. A further 200,000 are unregistered, giving them uncertain legal status.

Frustration and desperation has prompted many Rohingyas to risk their lives in small boats sailing for Thailand and Malaysia , according to the UNHCR.

Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman Faizasyah said the group of Rohingya in Aceh were still in Sabang and were being fed well, although they were not allowed media access.

Imam Husen, one of the boat people who landed in Indonesia, told Reuters from his hospital bed in Aceh earlier on that he and about 580 other people had set off from Mundu, in Myanmar, in four boats on Dec. 9 since they wanted to flee the country.

He said that some members of the group had been beaten after landing in Thailand and then towed out to sea two days later and set adrift.

A non-government organisation dedicated to the plight of the Rohingya said Thai security forces detained around 1,000 Rohingyas on a remote tropical island in the Andaman Sea, after intercepting them in Thai waters.

They were kept under armed guard, given very little food and reported being kicked and beaten with sticks, the Arakan project said.

Then, in two separate incidents around Dec. 18 and Dec. 30, the military forced 992 Rohingyas onto boats without engines before towing them far out to sea and abandoning them, it said. Of the 992, 550 are missing and feared drowned, it added.

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