05/14/2013, 00.00
MYANMAR
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Few survivors from refugee boat tragedy off the coast of Burma

The boat was carrying about 200 Rohingya. Late yesterday evening it crashed against rocks. The members of the Muslim minority had left the reception center because of evacuation plan decided by the authorities imminent passage of a cyclone.

Yangon (AsiaNews / Agencies) - A boat carrying about 200 Rohingya refugees, a Muslim minority from Myanmar victim of persecution and abuse, sunk late last night off the coast of western Burma. The boat was part of the evacuation of the population living in some areas of Rakhine State, where the (potentially) devastating hurricane Mahasen is due to make landfall in the coming days. Experts believe it could reach the level of Nargis, which in May 2008 made landfall in the Irrawaddy Delta region, causing the death of about 140 thousand persons and damage amounting to four billion dollars.

The boat sank off the town of Pauktaw, in the western Burmese state of Rakhine, with an unknown number of people still missing. Locally, tens of thousands of displaced persons are housed in refugee camps, forced to abandon their homes as a result of sectarian violence between the Muslim minority and the Burmese Buddhist majority.

Officials from the UN Office for the Coordination of humanitarian intervention emphasize that "the ship left the camp with the approval of the authorities, before crashing against the rocks" and sinking. The United Nations confirms that the people on board were between 100 and 200, while only a small portion - so far - were able to save themselves.

On May 11 last Myanmar authorities launched an alert ahead of the passage of a devastating cyclone. At least 140 thousand people are allocated in the area, victims of ethnic and sectarian violence that bloodied the former Burma last year. The rape and murder of a young Buddhist in late May 2012 triggered a spiral of terror, which caused hundreds of deaths and destroyed houses, along with thousands of refugees who have sought refuge abroad.

According to United Nations estimates there are at least 800 thousand in Rohingya Muslims Myanmar, but the government considers them illegal immigrants and as a result they are victims of abuse and persecution. Myanmar, consisting of more than 135 ethnic groups (Muslims make up 4% of a total of about 60 million), has always had difficulty in promoting coexistence in the past and the military junta has used an iron fist against the most recalcitrant. And even the reformist government that took over from the dictatorship in the spring of 2011 has so far been unable to stabilize the situation.

 

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