By ALISA TANG / THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION| Thursday, September 12, 2013 |BANGKOK — Some 250 Rohingya Muslim men who fled Burma by sea and were bound for Malaysia swam ashore in southern Thailand after their boat was hit by a storm and drifted off course, the Nation newspaper reported on Thursday.
The men, ranging in age from 15 to 40, came ashore on Wednesday morning in Satun, a Muslim-majority province bordering Malaysia, and were taken to a public park where locals provided food and medicine, while police and officials “conducted an inspection”, the report said.
The Nation said the men left Burma on August 26, and nine days later their food and water ran out. When they saw the coast they swam ashore to survive, and were being “kept at the park, pending further action by Internal Security Operations Command officials,” it said.
Tens of thousands of Rohingya have fled Burma by sea in the past year, in one of the biggest movements of boat people since the end of the Vietnam War. The number of people boarding boats from Burma and neighboring Bangladesh reached 34,626 from June 2012 to May this year – more than four times the number in the previous year, the Arakan Project says. Almost all were Rohingya Muslims from Burma.
Their exodus is a sign of Muslim desperation in Buddhist-majority Burma, where communal unrest last year in Arakan State left 192 dead and 140,000 homeless, most of them Rohingya. Rohingya activists put the death toll as high as 748.