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Scores of Rohingya Muslims land on Indonesian beach

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JAKARTA: More than 100 Rohingya Muslims have been found on a beach in Indonesia’s northernmost province of Aceh after weeks at sea.

The 58 men, 21 women, and 35 children were given shelter and received help from villagers, police, and military, while local authorities including the coronavirus task force were helping to process them.

The group arrived on Jangka beach near Alue Buya Pasi, a fishing village in Bireuen district, on a rickety wooden boat early on Sunday, according to officials.

The villagers who saw the 114 ethnic Rohingya helped them to land and then reported their arrival to authorities, said Badruddin Yunus, the leader of the local tribal fishing community.

“They look very weak from hunger and dehydration after a long and severe voyage at sea,” said Yunus, adding it wasn’t clear where the group was traveling from or where it was headed as none spoke English or Malay.

More than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled from Buddhist-majority Myanmar to refugee camps in Bangladesh since August 2017, when the Myanmar military launched a clearance operation in response to attacks by a rebel group.

Myanmar security forces have been accused of mass rapes, killings, and the burning of thousands of homes.

Groups of Rohingya have attempted to leave the crowded camps in Bangladesh and travel by sea in hazardous voyages to other Muslim-majority countries in the region.

Muslim-dominated Malaysia has been a common destination for the boats, and traffickers have promised the refugees a better life there. But many Rohingya refugees who land in Malaysia face detention.

Although Indonesia is not a signatory to the United Nations’ 1951 Refugee Convention, the UNHCR said that a 2016 presidential regulation provides a national legal framework governing the treatment of refugees on boats in distress near Indonesia and to help them disembark.

These provisions have been implemented for years, most recently in December when 105 Rohingya refugees were rescued off the coast of Bireuen toward its neighboring Lhokseumawe, a coastal town in the North Aceh district.

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