Twenty-six Rohingya refugees, who had been feared drowned while trying to swim ashore close to the Malaysian resort island of Langkawi, have been found alive, hiding in the vegetation on a nearby islet, a senior coastguard official said on Monday.
Malaysia does not recognise refugee status, but the country is a common destination for the mostly Muslim Rohingya, hundreds of thousands of whom live in densely populated camps in Bangladesh after escaping a brutal military crackdown in Myanmar in 2017.
Late on Saturday, one Rohingya man swam ashore from a small boat off Langkawi’s west coast. Officials had feared the rest of the group had drowned while trying to reach the beach, but they were later discovered on another small island just off the coast.
“They were found hiding in the bushes,” Mohd Zubil Mat Som, director-general of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) said in a text message to Reuters news agency.
Authorities have detained the refugees.
Two Rohingya have also been arrested for suspected trafficking in connection with the people found, Mohd Zubil said.
The refugees were believed to have transferred to a small boat to sneak into Malaysia, having travelled on a “motherboat” carrying hundreds of Rohingya from Bangladesh, the coastguard official said.
Last month, Malaysia detained 269 Rohingya who arrived in Langkawi, the main island of an archipelago of some 100 islands in the Andaman Sea, on a damaged boat. Mohd Zubil had said at the time that dozens of people on the boat were believed to have died during a voyage that lasted four months.
Lawyers bringing a case before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) accusing Myanmar of genocide against its Rohingya Muslim minority have asked a United States district court to order Facebook to release posts and communications from the country’s military and police.
The ICJ Lawyers, based in the Hague, has agreed to hear a case accusing Myanmar of genocide against the Rohingya in violation of a 1948 convention.
The ICJ, a United Nations court commonly known as the World Court, accepts cases between states, and the case against Myanmar was brought by the Gambia with the backing of a group of Muslim countries.
Hundreds of thousands of Muslims have fled a crackdown in mainly Buddhist Myanmar, which considers members of its Rohingya minority to be foreigners. Rights groups have documented killings of civilians and burning of villages. Myanmar authorities say they have been battling an insurgency and deny carrying out systematic atrocities.
In 2018 UN human rights investigators said that Facebook had played a key role in spreading hate speech that fuelled violence in Myanmar. Facebook has said it is working to block hate speech.
A request, filed on behalf of the Gambia on June 8 with the US District Court for the District of Columbia, calls on Facebook to release “all documents and communications produced, drafted, posted or published on the Facebook page” of Myanmar military officials and police forces.
The Rohingya crisis steps into the first anniversary on Saturday with no real progress in the repatriation drive by Bangladesh other than the continuation of dialogue with Myanmar though Rohingyas are still coming into Bangladesh due to the absence of conducive environment in Rakhine.
‘So far, the only progress is that the talks with Myanmar on repatriation have not stopped. And unfortunately, Rohingyas are still coming into Bangladesh for lack of conducive environment in Rakhine State,’ a senior official told UNB reviewing the situation, reports the UNB.
Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi in her recent remarks in Singapore tried to convey a message it is only Bangladesh which can decide how quickly Rohingyas would return to Myanmar apparently blaming Dhaka for the delay.
‘It’s not true that Bangladesh is delaying the repatriation process,’ the official said adding that Rohingyas are still coming in small groups every week.
August 25 marks the first anniversary of the launching of crackdown by Myanmar’s military on Rohingyas in Rakhine State in response to what Myanmar says attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army on police posts.
Security forces and their proxies killed thousands of Rohingya, burned villages to the ground, committed widespread sexual violence and drove more than 700,000 people to flee into Bangladesh.
A government official stationed on the ground said Bangladesh border still remains open which is unprecedented and shows Bangladesh’s generosity on humanitarian grounds.
Suu Kyi, in a lecture in Singapore on Tuesday, said it was difficult to say when the Rohingyas who fled will be able to return to Rakhine state because her nation needs the cooperation of Bangladesh, according to an AP report.
She said Myanmar has mapped out general sites for the resettlement of returning Rohingya, but the timing of the repatriation also depends on Bangladesh.
The Myanmar leader defended her government’s actions in Rakhine state, where about 700,000 Rohingya Muslims fled from a brutal counterinsurgency campaign to Bangladesh.