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Migrants killed as boat capsizes off Malaysian coast

Migrants sit on their boat as they wait to be rescued by Acehnese fishermen off East Aceh, Indonesia, in May. Photo: AP

By Lindsay Murdoch
September 3, 2015

Bangkok: A boat carrying dozens of migrants has sunk in rough seas in the Malacca Strait off Malaysia, killing at least 14 people, according to Malaysian rescuers.

The tragedy has reignited fears about a new wave of Rohingyas making a perilous journey in unsafe boats across the Bay of Bengal to flee persecution in Myanmar.

In May, Thailand cracked down on human trafficking networks as several thousand Rohingyas and Bangladeshi boat people landed in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand after being abandoned by smugglers.

Mass graves of more than 200 others who had been murdered by traffickers were found in remote areas of Thailand and Malaysia.

Images of starving and distressed families stranded at sea shocked the world.

No boats had been reported in South-east Asian waters in recent weeks.

A Rohingya woman weeps at a temporary shelter in Lapang, Aceh province, Indonesia, in May. Photo: AP

But rights activists say state-sponsored persecution of Rohingyas in Myanmar has not ended despite the urgings of South-east Asian countries which struggled to deal with the boat people crisis.

Myanmar's military-dominated government has refused to agree to the right of Rohingyas to return to Myanmar.

More than a million Rohingyas living in Myanmar's western Arakan state are denied basic freedoms of movement, marriage, childbirth and other aspects of daily life.

Human rights groups accuse authorities in Myanmar, which is also called Burma, of trying to coerce Rohingyas to identify as Bengali in a crude strategy to erase Rohingya ethnic identity and send them to Bangladesh.

The boat sank on Thursday afternoon off Malaysia's western coast near the town of Bernam in central Selangor state.

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Rohingya Exodus