Fate of Myanmar nationals in Indonesia unclear
The fate of 77 Muslims from Myanmar, who were stranded on an Indonesian island last month, still remaines unclear.india Updated: May 03, 2006 13:45 IST
The fate of 77 Myanmar Muslims who became stranded on an Indonesian island on the way to seek work in Malaysia last month remained unclear on Wednesday.
The chief of the naval base on Sabang island, where the Myanmarese have been sheltered since last month, said the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was seeking to determine their status.
"Two people from UNHCR are here to interview them to determine whether they can be considered asylum-seekers," Colonel Aswoto Saranang said.
But a UNHCR protection officer in Jakarta, Shinji Kubo, said there had been no request from the immigration department for the refugee agency to intervene.
"I don't think we have interviewed them," he said.
Zulkarnain, an official at the immigration office on Sabang, said the government was considering turning back the men to their military-ruled home country.
"That's the move we are considering but there's still no decision because we're still discussing it," he said.
Navy chief Saranang has said the boatpeople refused to be repatriated to Myanmar and vowed to continue to their journey to seek work overseas.
The men landed on Rondo island off northern Sumatra after their boat ran out of fuel. All are men and ethnic Muslim Rohingyas from Myanmar's Arakan state, aged between 20 to 45.
Officials have said they had left Myanmar to seek better livelihoods in the Malaysian state of Penang and were not fleeing persecution.
In 1992, more than 200,000 Rohingyas, about a third of their population, fled over Myanmar's border into Bangladesh, accusing the Yangon regime of persecution.
About 20,000 remain in two refugee camps while others are living illegally in the surrounding area.