Myanmar boat people 'trying to go to Australia'
- Published: 17/02/2013 at 08:44 PM
- Online news:
A boatload of Myanmar nationals rescued from a sinking wooden craft off Sri Lanka's east coast after two months at sea had been trying to reach Australia, local police said Sunday.
Sri Lankan sailors assist rescued survivors at Oluvil fisheries harbour in eastern Sri Lanka earlier this month. A boatload of Myanmar nationals rescued from a sinking wooden craft off Sri Lanka's east coast after two months at sea had been trying to reach Australia, local police said Sunday.
The boatpeople, plucked to safety by Sri Lanka's navy on Saturday, were taken Sunday to the southern port of Galle where they were rushed to hospital to be treated for dehydration and starvation, police said in a statement.
It said 32 people were rescued, although initial reports from naval units had suggested there were 38.
A spokesman for Myanmar's embassy in Colombo said they were waiting to speak with the boatpeople before deciding on a course of action.
"We have been told of 32 people rescued and we are waiting to speak to them," embassy spokesman Aung Soe Moe told AFP.
Sri Lankan police said the rescued boat people claimed they were in a group of 130 who put out to sea in three boats just over two months ago with the intention of reaching Australia. The fate of the others was not known.
Saturday's rescue was the second in less than two weeks.
On February 3, the navy rescued 138 Bangladeshi and Myanmar nationals from a sinking boat. One passenger was found dead.
Local police officials said it was unclear if those identified as Myanmar nationals were Rohingya -- members of a stateless Muslim minority described by the UN as one of the world's most persecuted groups -- who had fled the country.
An explosion of tensions between Buddhist and Muslim communities in Myanmar's western state of Rakhine since June 2012 has triggered a seaborne exodus of Rohingya.
Thailand's navy blocked more than 200 Rohingya boatpeople from entering the kingdom late last month as part of a new policy under which they will be given food and water but barred from landing if their boat is seaworthy.
About the author
- Writer: AFP
Position: News agency