Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Indonesian navy tows Rohingya boat to port

Indonesian navy tows Rohingya boat to port

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
At least 100 mostly women and children aboard a sticken wooden vessel off Aceh province were denied refuge in Indonesia. STR/AFP

Indonesian navy tows Rohingya boat to port

Indonesia's navy rescued more than 100 Rohingya migrants travelling in a wooden boat, bringing them to safety early in the morning of December 31 following pressure from locals.

The naval ship arrived in Lhokseumawe on the north coast of Aceh province shortly after midnight, according to AFP journalists at the scene.

Rough seas and pouring rain hampered the operation to bring the mostly women and children to shore, the navy said.

The rescue operation followed local protests and pressure from rights groups, including the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), after the Indonesian government initially refused entry.

Jakarta on the evening of December 29 relented and agreed to bring the boat to shore on humanitarian grounds.

Local Acehnese fishermen first discovered the vessel on December 25 as it drifted 90-130km off the coast with a broken engine.

Video they sent from the scene showed the vessel dangerously overcrowded and sitting low in the water after it took on water in heavy seas after the engine failure.

The video and images circulated on social media, stoking support for the migrants, Muslim-minority Rohingya who are fleeing persecution in their native Myanmar, according to local residents.

Local Acehnese told AFP they were motivated by memories of foreign assistance during more than 30 years of conflict and the devastating tsunami that killed hundreds of thousands in 2004.

“We sincerely want to help, especially because we know how it felt getting help from other countries during the tsunami,” said Ridwan, 56, a local fisherman who, like many Indonesians, goes by only one name.

“Everybody was eager to help since the beginning,” he said.

The migrants appeared exhausted and crammed onto the deck after being adrift for almost a month and short of food and water, AFP journalists at the port observed.

A local fisherman earlier told AFP that the migrants told him one 17-year-old boy had died.

After they disembarked, the migrants were sprayed with disinfectant and transferred to buses before being driven away.

Officials said they would be moved to a nearby training facility where they would be tested for Covid-19, have medical checks and then quarantine for 10 days.

Migrant Rohingya frequently pass by Aceh province en route to Malaysia, where they seek work and a better life.

MOST VIEWED

  • Research key to Kanitha’s rep for expertise

    Sok Kanitha is used to weighing in on controversial issues using a confident approach that signals expertise and authority, and a recent video she made was no exception. Her “Episode 342: The History of NATO” video went live on January 16, 2023 and immediately shot to 30,000 likes and 3,500

  • Cambodia maintains 'Kun Khmer' stance despite Thailand’s boycott threat

    Cambodia has taken the position that it will use the term "Kun Khmer" to refer to the sport of kickboxing at the upcoming Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, and has removed the term Muay from all references to the sport. Despite strong reactions from the Thai

  • Knockout! Kun Khmer replaces ‘Muay’ for Phnom Penh Games

    Cambodia has decided to officially remove the word Muay from the programme of the 32nd Southeast Asian (SEA) Games 2023 in May. “Kun Khmer” will instead be used to represent the Southeast Asian sport of kickboxing, in accordance with the wishes of the Cambodian people. Vath

  • Artificial insemination takes herd from 7 to 700

    Some farms breed local cows or even import bulls from a broad for the purpose of breeding heavier livestock for meat production. One Tbong Khnum farmer has found a more efficient way. Hout Leang employs artificial insemination to fertilise local cows. Thanks to imported “straws”

  • New int’l airport nearly half complete as travel industry returns to life

    Construction of a new airport that is slated to serve the capital has passed the 43 per cent completion mark, raising prospects for a proper recovery in the civil aviation and tourism sectors as international travellers return to the Kingdom in increasingly large numbers. The figure

  • Chinese group tours return to Cambodia starting Feb 6

    Cambodia is among 20 countries selected by Beijing for a pilot programme allowing travel agencies to provide international group tours as well as flight and hotel packages to Chinese citizens, following a three-year ban. As the days tick down until the programme kicks off on February 6,