Myanmar escorts 700 migrants toward Rakhine
More than 700 migrants found packed aboard an overcrowded boat in the Andaman Sea were still being held offshore by Myanmar's navy on Monday, more than three days after the converted fishing vessel was intercepted off the country's coast.
"The government is checking their identity, asking what they want to do and where they want to go," government spokesman Ye Htut told Reuters, without providing further details of the boat's location. "Usually, most of them want to go back to Bangladesh, so we will arrange according to their wishes." Government officials have been tight-lipped about the identities of 727 migrants on the overcrowded boat, found drifting and taking on water early Friday, as well as their eventual destination.
The government initially labelled the migrants "Bengalis", a term used to refer to both Bangladeshis and Rohingya Muslims, a largely stateless minority in Myanmar that the government refuses to refer to by name. Officials later said they believed most of those on board were from Bangladesh.
Myanmar has come under harsh criticism for its treatment of Rohingya, more than 100,000 of whom have fled persecution and poverty in Rakhine State since 2012. Myanmar denies discriminating against the Rohingya.