News / Asia

UN Reports Increase in Boat People Fleeing Myanmar, Bangladesh

Ethnic Rohingya refugees from Myanmar wave as they are transported by a wooden boat to a temporary shelter in Krueng Raya in Aceh Besar, Indonesia, April 8, 2013.
Ethnic Rohingya refugees from Myanmar wave as they are transported by a wooden boat to a temporary shelter in Krueng Raya in Aceh Besar, Indonesia, April 8, 2013.
Ron Corben

A new U.N. report points to a sharp increase in numbers of boat people mostly from Myanmar, also known as Burma, and Bangladesh.  Activists fear a further surge of refugee boat people, especially ethnic Rohingya fleeing squalid refugee camps and persecution in Myanmar.

The report by the U.N. High Commission for Refugees says from June 2013 to June 2014 more than 53,000 people have fled by sea from the Bangladesh-Myanmar border region, an increase of 60 percent from the previous year. 

More than 20,000 boat people fled in the first six months of this year, headed toward the Malaysia-Thailand border or on to Indonesia and Australia.          

Chris Lewa, a rights activist and researcher on the ethnic Rohingya of Myanmar's western Arakine state, says after a lull in departures more people appear ready to risk their lives at sea.

"It is very worrying, and the fact that the situation that it is not going to stop.  Since the 10th of August we noticed again several boats leaving within a short span of time and that means it will probably continue to increase again as the [sailing] season really picks up," she said.

The U.N. report says more than 200 people have perished at sea and more 7,000 boat people are now held in detention centers across the region.  In addition to the 20,000 boat people from Bangladesh and Myanmar, hundreds have attempted to reach Australia.

Australia has enacted policies to prevent boats from reaching it shores, including intercepting boats at sea and holding refugees at offshore camps in Nauru.

Many of those fleeing are ethnic Rohingya from Myanmar.   They face increasing violence and discrimination.  In 2012, bloodshed between Muslim Rohingya and Buddhist communities led to 280 deaths and forced more than 140,000 people, mostly Rohingya, into camps.

The U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, described the camp conditions as "deplorable."

Activist Lewa says the refugees often face violence and malnutrition at the hands of the traffickers, with regional governments responding inadequately to the crisis.

"One of the problems of course is there is no regional response to this problem and there is very little access to protection, as you see that most of these people end up in Malaysia, but also others are caught in Thailand.  There is still a number in detention in Thailand at the moment; there is probably going to be more in the coming weeks and months," she said.

The UNHCR says it is providing assistance to the refugees in Thailand and Malaysia, including providing education and medical assistance.  

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More