Myanmar rescues 154 Rohingya from boat in distress

BANGKOK (AP) — More than 150 Rohingya have been rescued off the coast of Myanmar after their boat started taking on water, Myanmar's military said.

Myanmar's state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corporation sent two boats from an offshore operation to rescue the 154 people — 106 males and 48 females — after spotting their boat in trouble, the military said in a statement Thursday.

It was not clear whether the vessel was the same boat carrying Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh that had been reported to be in trouble earlier this week in the waters of neighboring Thailand.

Thailand's navy spokesman Vice Admiral Pokkrong Monthatphalin said Friday that crews had been sent to look for the boat in the Andaman Sea after it received the reports, but had found nothing.

UNHCR, the United Nations' Refugee Agency, said it did not have independent information on the boat reportedly experiencing engine troubles in Thai waters, but urged countries in the area to help.

In a report earlier this month, UNHCR reported there had been a dramatic increase in the number of people attempting to cross the Andaman Sea this year.

Some 1,920 people, primarily Rohingya, made the crossing from either Myanmar or Bangladesh from January to November 2022, compared to a total of 287 in all of 2021.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims have fled from Buddhist-majority Myanmar to refugee camps in Bangladesh since August 2017, when the Myanmar military launched operations in response to attacks by a rebel group. Myanmar security forces have been accused of mass rapes, killings and the burning of thousands of Rohingya homes.

Groups of Rohingya have attempted to leave the camps in Bangladesh by sea to seek a better life in other Muslim-majority countries in the region.

Malaysia has been a common destination for the boats even though many Rohingya refugees who land there face detention. Others have sought refuge in Indonesia.