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Boat Carrying Rohingya Muslims Capsizes Off Bangladesh


Next, we have one incident in a long-running tragedy. The tragedy is the steady flow of refugees, Rohingya Muslims fleeing the government in Myanmar. Michael Sullivan reports that a boat carrying refugees capsized, leaving more than a dozen dead - mostly children.

MICHAEL SULLIVAN, BYLINE: It's an often perilous journey, one that frequently ends in tragedy. In early September, 46 bodies were recovered after a boat crammed with refugees capsized. Eleven days ago, another boat sank with 80 people on board. Fewer than 20 survived. Yet still the refugees keep coming - the risk on the water preferable to that of staying and facing Myanmar's military, even though the weather has turned brutal the past few days. Hala Jaber is spokesperson for the International Organization for Migration in Cox's Bazar.

HALA JABER: The weather's been bad. It's been - I can tell you, it's been, like, raining nonstop - pelting down - not just rain - on and off for last three, four, five days here and with strong winds, which means - these are small fishing boats. They've got like 60 or 70 people on board. And you know, it takes one wave to turn it over basically.

SULLIVAN: She says several thousand Rohingya keep crossing into Bangladesh pretty much every day, either by boat or by land. And there are reports of many thousands more massing on the Myanmar side, waiting to cross when it's safe to join more than half a million who fled the Myanmar military's brutal security crackdown that the United Nations has called textbook ethnic cleansing - a crackdown that began after Rohingya militants attacked dozens of Myanmar security posts on August 25th. Myanmar denies the allegations of ethnic cleansing and says it's only trying to root out the terrorists who carried out those attacks. The group responsible, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army or ARSA, declared a unilateral ceasefire in early September. That ceasefire expires at midnight local time, though it's not clear what challenge they could still pose to Myanmar's military. Meanwhile, conditions in the makeshift camps housing the refugees are still wretched - adequate food, shelter and sanitation still in short supply. And the weather, The IOM's Hala Jabers says, is making things even worse.

JABER: I mean, the muds, the flood. The - basically, the misery - it's relentless. It's not easing up at all. It's - you know, it doesn't get better.

SULLIVAN: And yet the Rohingya are still coming. For NPR News, I'm Michael Sullivan in Chiang Rai.


Michael Sullivan is NPR's Senior Asia Correspondent. He moved to Hanoi to open NPR's Southeast Asia Bureau in 2003. Before that, he spent six years as NPR's South Asia correspondent based in but seldom seen in New Delhi.
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