The Turkish navy is carrying out efforts to reach Rohingya Muslims stranded in boats off the coast of Thailand and Malaysia, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said.
Addressing a group of young people at Çankaya Palace May 19, Davutoğlu said that Turkey was doing its best to reach Rohingya Muslims at sea with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), with the help of a ship from the Turkish Armed Forces already sailing in the region.
Some 7,000 to 8,000 Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants are currently thought to be in the Malacca Straits, unable to disembark because of crackdowns on trafficking networks in Thailand and Malaysia, their primary destination.
Boats carrying about 500 members of Myanmar’s long-persecuted Rohingya Muslim community washed ashore in western Indonesia on May 10, with some people in need of medical attention, a migration official and a human rights advocate said.
The men, women and children arrived on two separate boats, holding 430 people and 70 people respectively, said Steve Hamilton, deputy chief of mission at the IOM in Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital.
Rohingya Muslims have suffered for decades from state-sanctioned discrimination in Myanmar.
Attacks on the religious minority by Buddhist mobs in the last three years have sparked one of the biggest exoduses of boat people since the Vietnam War, sending 100,000 people fleeing, according to Chris Lewa, director of the Arakan Project. The project has monitored the movements of Rohingya for more than a decade.
Tightly confined and with limited access to food and clean water, Lewa said she worries that the migrants’ health is steadily deteriorating. Dozens of deaths have been reported in the last few months.