BANDAR ACEH (AFP) – Nearly 200 Rohingya refugees, including many women and children, landed in Indonesia’s western most province, a local official said, the largest contingent of the persecuted Myanmar minority to arrive in months.
Thousands of the mostly Muslim Rohingya risk their lives each year on long and expensive sea journeys, often in flimsy boats, to try to reach Malaysia or Indonesia.
The group of 196 landed in a remote part of Aceh Province’s Pidie region, local navy commander Andi Susanto said in a statement.
Some of the new arrivals immediately fled inland, according to a spokesperson for the fishing community Marfian, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.
“Ten… immediately fled to the nearby hills. It seems that they were the middlemen that intentionally brought the refugees to the area,” he said.
The government gave a lower number of seven who fled.
The refugees were being assisted by local authorities and residents.
“Local people have provided food and drink for them as it is their habit of helping stranded Rohingyas,” Marfian said.
Images shared showed tired-looking refugees, including women holding babies in their arms, waiting on the beachside for help.
More than 2,000 Rohingya are believed to have attempted the risky journey to Southeast Asian countries in 2022, according to the United Nations refugee agency.
Nearly 200 Rohingya died or went missing last year while attempting hazardous sea crossings, the agency has estimated.
In March, 184 Rohingya refugees arrived in the eastern Aceh town of Peureulak after they were dropped at sea by boat and made to swim ashore.