Bay of Bengal migrant crisis: the boats and the numbers


BANGKOK: In the past 10 days, nearly 3,000 boatpeople from Myanmar and Bangladesh have been rescued or swum to shore in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.

Several thousand more are believed to be trapped on boats at sea with little food or water in a crisis sparked by smugglers abandoning their human cargo after a Thai crackdown on long-established human-trafficking routes.

Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand had sparked outrage for driving off some overloaded boats. But there was a breakthrough in the crisis Wednesday when Malaysia and Indonesia said they would no longer turn away migrants.

The following is a regional summary of the current crisis:

More than 1,100 migrants have washed ashore in Malaysia over the past week after people-smuggling gangs dumped migrants in shallow waters off the coast of the resort island of Langkawi.

Malaysia is also pressing Myanmar to address the mounting crisis.

Almost 1,800 migrants have been intercepted by Indonesian authorities or plucked from the sea by fishermen in western Aceh province — many in a desperate condition.

On Wednesday, more than 400 Rohingya were rescued by fishermen from a green wooden boat, whose fate had captured worldwide attention after harrowing scenes emerged of desperate migrants pleading for help when the trawler was found by media floating off Thailand.

Fishermen rescued around 800 boatpeople from at least one vessel on Friday, with survivors recounting grim tales of deadly fighting between rival groups of migrants that left at least 100 dead.

The first boat to arrive off Aceh was on Sunday, May 10, when around 560 migrants were dumped in shallow waters and told to swim to shore.

The Indonesian navy also towed away one migrant vessel carrying 400 migrants last week, and said it had turned back another.

The boat that was found off the Indonesian coast on Wednesday was the same one spotted adrift last week several kilometres off the Thai tourist resort of Koh Lipe.

Authorities dropped food and water into the sea from a helicopter, prompting a desperate scramble to retrieve the packages.

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