JAKARTA: Distressed boats carrying about 400 ethnic Rohingya arrived in Indonesia’s Aceh province on Sunday (Dec 10), the head of the provincial fishing community confirmed, marking a recent surge in arrivals of Myanmar’s Muslim minority into the country. Is.
Ahead of Sunday’s arrival, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) said 1,200 Rohingya people, a persecuted minority from Myanmar, had sought refuge in Indonesia since November.
Miftah Kat Ade, head of a fishing community in Aceh, said two boats landed in the province on Sunday morning, one each in the Pidi and Aceh Besar districts.
Each boat was carrying an estimated 200 Rohingya, he said.
Andy Susanto, a local military officer, said about 180 Rohingya had landed in Pidi at 4 a.m., and officials were coordinating in the area to collect data.
Susanto confirmed that the military was aware of the second boat but did not know where it had landed or how many people were on board.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo said in a statement on Friday that he suspected human trafficking was behind the recent increase in boat arrivals and pledged to work with international organizations to tackle the issue.
Indonesia is not a signatory to the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees, but it has a history of accepting refugees when they arrive on the country’s shores.
But the high volume of recent arrivals has prompted reaction on social media and some reaction from people in Aceh, the westernmost region where the most boats land.
For years, the Rohingya have fled Buddhist-majority Myanmar where they are generally considered foreign interlopers from South Asia, denied citizenship and subjected to abuse.
When the sea is calm between November and April each year, members of the persecuted minority community leave on wooden boats for neighboring Thailand and Muslim-majority Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia.