JAKARTA: Dilapidated boats carrying an estimated 400 ethnic Rohingya arrived in Indonesia’s Aceh province on Sunday, chief of a provincial fishing community has confirmed, adding to a recent surge of Myanmar’s Muslim minority arriving in the country.

Prior to Sunday’s arrivals, the United Nations’ refugee agency (UNHCR) said that 1,200 Rohingya people, a persecuted minority from Myanmar, had landed ashore in Indonesia since November.

Miftah Cut Ade, chief of the fishing community in Aceh, said that two boats landed in the province early on Sunday morning, one each in the districts of Pidie and Aceh Besar.

Each boat was carrying an estimated 200 Rohingya, he said.

Andi Susanto, a local military official, said about 180 Rohingya had landed in Pidie at 4 a.m. (2100 GMT), and that officers were coordinating in the field to collect data. Susanto confirmed the military was aware of a second boat but did not have information of where it had landed or how many were on board.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said in a statement on Friday that he suspects human trafficking is behind the recent escalation in boat arrivals and has promised to work with international organisations to handle the issue. Indonesia is not a signatory to the 1951 United Nations Convention on Refugees but has a history of taking in refugees when they arrive on the country’s shores.

But the high volume of recent arrivals has prompted a backlash on social media and some pushback from people in Aceh, the westernmost region most boats land.

Some 170 Rohingya land in Indonesia in latest boat arrival

For years, Rohingya have left Buddhist-majority Myanmar where they are generally regarded as foreign interlopers from South Asia, denied citizenship and subjected to abuse.

When seas are calmer between November and April every year, members of the persecuted minority leave on wooden boats for neighbouring Thailand and Muslim-majority Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia.


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