June 11, 2019 / 12:54 PM / in 7 days

Rohingya Muslims found stranded on Thai island: officials

BANGKOK (Reuters) - A fishing boat carrying more than 60 Rohingya Muslims was found beached on an island in southern Thailand on Tuesday, officials said.

The passengers - 28 men, 31 women and five children - were stranded on Rawi island in Tarutao National Park in Thailand’s southern Satun province after the boat suffered engine trouble, a park official told Reuters.

Scores of Rohingya Muslims have boarded boats in recent months to try to reach Malaysia, part of what authorities fear could be a new wave of people smuggling by sea after a 2015 crackdown on trafficking. [nL3N21Q1DG]

A Satun government official said the passengers would be transferred to the mainland.

“Everyone will be investigated in order to see whether they are victims of trafficking or illegal immigrants,” said the official who declined to be named.

More than 700,000 Rohingya crossed into Bangladesh in 2017 fleeing an army crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, according to U.N. agencies.

Myanmar regards Rohingya as illegal migrants from the Indian subcontinent and has confined tens of thousands to sprawling camps in Rakhine since violence swept the area in 2012.

The unrest prompted tens of thousands of Rohingya to flee Myanmar by sea. The exodus peaked in 2015, when an estimated 25,000 people crossed the Andaman Sea for Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, many drowning in unsafe and overloaded boats.

Reporting by Panu Wongcha-um and Panarat Thepgumpanat; editing by Darren Schuettler

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