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Myanmar Muslim migrants stranded in Jakarta

A boat carrying 77 Myanmarese bound for Malaysia were stranded on a small Indonesian island after running out of fuel.

india Updated: Apr 25, 2006 14:46 IST

A boat carrying 77 Myanmar Muslims bound for Malaysia where they hoped to find work became stranded on a small Indonesian island after running out of fuel, an Indonesian navy commander said on Tuesday.

The boatmen are ethnic Muslim Rohingyas from Myanmar's Arakan state, said Colonel Aswoto Saranang, a navy commander in Sabang island, off the northern tip of Sumatra island.

The Myanmarese, all men aged from 20 to 35, were taken to navy headquarters in Sabang after their boat landed on nearby Rondo island on Saturday, he said.

Saranang said the boatpeople had told officers that they left military-ruled Myanmar for economic reasons and were not fleeing persecution.

"They said they left their country not because they were oppressed or subjected to violence. They simply want to find better livelihoods," Saranang said.

Some of them have relatives who work in the Malaysian state of Penang.

"They are determined to go there, even if they have to work as menial labourers," he said.

He said the men had been at sea for a week and had not eaten for three days when they were found.

They have been given food, clothes and medical treatment at the navy headquarters, he added.

The officer said officials were consulting with Jakarta on what to do with the Myanmarese.

"But if they decide to continue their journey, we will give them food, clothes and fuel," he said.

In 1992, more than 200,000 Rohingyas, about a third of their population, fled over Myanmar's border into Bangladesh, accusing the Yangon military regime of persecution.

About 20,000 remain in two refugee camps while others are living illegally in the surrounding area.

First Published: Apr 25, 2006 14:46 IST