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Fishermen have rescued more than 100 ethnic Rohingya asylum seekers from Burma who were found drifting in a wooden boat off western Indonesia, an official said Wednesday.
The 121 Rohingya, including six women and two children, were found adrift late Tuesday by fishermen around 25 kilometres (15 miles) from the village of Cot Trueng, on the northernmost tip of Sumatra island in Aceh province.
“Their boat ran out of petrol as they tried to sail from Myanmar [Burma] to Thailand,” village chief Mukhtar Samsyah told AFP , adding that they had fled Burma to escape sectarian conflict.
He said the Rohingya were found in a weak condition but had recovered after being given food, water and a place to sleep.
“They’ve all been sent to an immigration detention centre in Lhokseumawe city,” he said.
The UN considers the Rohingya, a stateless Muslim ethnic group, one of the most persecuted minorities in the world, while Burma views its roughly 800,000 Rohingya as illegal Bangladeshi immigrants, denying them citizenship.
According to government statistics, Buddhist-Muslim unrest in Arakan has left at least 180 people dead and more than 110,000 displaced since June 2012.
Almost 6,000 Rohingya fleeing the violence have illegally entered Thai waters since October, the Thai army said earlier this month.
In late January, Thailand’s navy blocked more than 200 Rohingya boat people from entering the kingdom as part of a new crackdown on the refugees, under which they will be given food and water but barred from landing if their boat is seaworthy.
The tougher stance came after Thai authorities said they were investigating allegations that army officials were involved in the trafficking of Rohingya.