News / Asia

Burmese Refugee Boat Capsizes Ahead of Storm, 8 Dead

People dismantle tents before moving to safer grounds in light of an approaching cyclone, in an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp for Muslims, outside Sittwe, Burma, May 13, 2013.
People dismantle tents before moving to safer grounds in light of an approaching cyclone, in an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp for Muslims, outside Sittwe, Burma, May 13, 2013.
VOA News
The United Nations says at least eight people died after several boats evacuating Rohingya Muslim refugees capsized off western Burma, as tens of thousands scramble to leave low-lying refugee camps ahead of an incoming storm.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says the accident occurred when a group of five boats carrying about 100 people struck rocks near Pauktaw township in Burma's Rakhine state. It said 42 people survived the crash. The fate of the others is unknown.

The accident happened Monday, as the already displaced persons were being moved to what the U.N. office called "other Muslim host communities" in that part of Burma.

NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this visible image of a well-rounded Tropical Cyclone Mahasen in the Northern Indian Ocean on May 15 at 07:55 UTC. (Credit: NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team)NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this visible image of a well-rounded Tropical Cyclone Mahasen in the Northern Indian Ocean on May 15 at 07:55 UTC. (Credit: NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team)
x
NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this visible image of a well-rounded Tropical Cyclone Mahasen in the Northern Indian Ocean on May 15 at 07:55 UTC. (Credit: NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team)
NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this visible image of a well-rounded Tropical Cyclone Mahasen in the Northern Indian Ocean on May 15 at 07:55 UTC. (Credit: NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team)
Aid agencies continue to warn of a possible humanitarian disaster that could result from heavy flooding and mudslides late Wednesday or Thursday when Cyclone Mahasen hits the coast of western Burma and Bangladesh.

Most at risk are the tens of thousands of people, mostly Rohingya Muslims, living in squalid refugee camps in flood-prone areas of Rakhine. They were displaced following Buddhist-Muslim violence last year that killed nearly 200 people.

Human Rights Watch is one of several aid groups that has for months warned of the incoming rainy season. In a statement Tuesday, the New York-based group said Burma did not heed the repeated warnings to relocate the displaced persons. If the government fails to evacuate all those at risk, it said any disaster "will not be natural, but man-made."

Phil Robertson, deputy director for Human Rights Watch's Asia division, said he is not surprised that a boat full of Rohingya refugees has crashed, since the vessels being used to move them are too small for the job.

"The question is, where is the Burma Navy? The Burma Navy has a significant capacity to move people in a hurry. Why aren't they pitching in?" he asks. "Where is the mobilization of the Burma government to deal with this crisis at a level that is necessary?"

The U.N. said early Tuesday that 13,000 people were relocated in the previous 24 hours. But Robertson said it is not enough. He has received reports from some vulnerable camps in Rakhine that have not even been contacted by the government.

  • A vehicle moves internally displaced Rohingya to a safer place ahead of Cyclone Mahasen at a camp outside of Sittwe, Burma, May 16, 2013.
  • Internally displaced Rohingyas wait on a truck to leave their camp Sittwe, Burma, May 16, 2013.
  • Internally displaced Rohingya people take shelter in a building ahead of the arrival of Cyclone Mahasen, in Sittwe, northwestern Rakhine State, Burma, May 15, 2013.
  • Soldiers wait to help people move to safe location at a Rohingya internally displaced person camp outside of Sittwe, Burma, May 15, 2013.
  • An internally displaced Rohingya woman walks carrying a sibling in a makeshift camp in Sittwe, Burma, May 14, 2013.
  • Internally displaced Rohingya boys shiver in rain in a makeshift camp for Rohingya people in Sittwe, Burma, May 14, 2013.
  • Novice Buddhist monks play in the sea in Sittwe, Burma ahead of the arrival of Cyclone Mahasen, May 14, 2013.
  • Thandawli villagers stand by the bank of a river in a camp for Rohingya internally displaced persons outside Sittwe, Burma, May 14, 2013.
  • A Rakhine Buddhist woman and her child take in a monastery because of the arrival of the Cyclone Mahasen, Sittwe, Burma, May 14, 2013.
  • Lightning is seen over the Sule pagoda and the former city hall of Rangoon, Burma, May 13, 2013.

To make matters worse, there is the possibility that the Rohingya may face more violence if they leave the walls of the heavily guarded refugee camps. Robertson says authorities must ensure the refugees are not subject to violence at the hands of ethnic Arakanese.

"Vulnerable Muslim populations are certainly at risk, not only from the cyclones, but also from the violence at the hands of the ethnic Arakanese communities, and in some cases from the local security forces, who we found were responsible for ethnic cleansing," said Robertson.

A small minority in Burma, Muslims face a growing, violent campaign against them led by radical Buddhist monks. Some rights groups say Burmese security forces have ignored or even taken part in the violence - a charge denied by the government.

But the incoming storm is now the more urgent concern.  Forecasters say Mahasen will continue to strengthen as it makes landfall near Chittagong in Bangladesh and moves into neighboring Burma.

Aid agencies are already preparing to help those who will be affected by the storm. In a statement, the Bangladesh Red Crescent and Myanmar Red Cross Societies said disaster response teams are on stand-by and are training locals in first aid and evacuation routes.

Valerie Amos, the U.N. humanitarian chief, said on her Twitter account she is very concerned about the cyclone, which she said could be life threatening for millions in Bangladesh, Burma and India.

In 2008, Cyclone Nargis devastated Burma's Irrawaddy delta region, killing more than 130,000 people.

You May Like

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid