Malaysia takes in shipwrecked Myanmar migrants refused by Singapore

Wed Dec 19, 2012 1:39am EST
 

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysian authorities have allowed 40 migrants from Myanmar into the country two weeks after their vessel sank in the Bay of Bengal, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Wednesday.

Singapore did not let the migrants enter despite an appeal by the UNHCR after they were rescued by a Vietnamese cargo when their vessel sank on December 5.

It was not immediately clear if they were Rohingyas, Muslim people from northwest Myanmar. Violence erupted between majority Buddhists and minority Muslims in northwest Myanmar's Rakhine state in June and has broken out intermittently since then.

Many Rohingya people, facing violence and persecution, have left Myanmar in rickety boats bound for southeast Asia in search of better lives.

"Prior to their rescue, survivors of the initial boat sinking had spent many hours in the waters of the Bay of Bengal. It is still unclear how many people died in this incident," the UNHCR said in a statement.

The plight of the migrants highlights the uncertain reception faced by hundreds of Myanmar people fleeing inter-communal violence and poverty.

A Malaysian government official confirmed that the boat people were safely in the country but gave no details.

(Reporting By Siva Sithraputhran; Editing by Robert Birsel)