120 refugees fleeing Myanmar drown

Oct. 31, 2012 at 4:58 PM
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NAYPYITAW, Myanmar, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- At least 120 refugees fleeing violence in western Myanmar drowned when their overcrowded fishing boat capsized and sank in the Bay of Bengal, police said.

Several survivors were rescued by local fishermen from Bangladesh, activists in Bangladesh reported.

The passengers, largely Rohingya Muslims, were escaping the ongoing violence in Myanmar's Arakan state between their minority group and local Rakhine Buddhists. The crisis, which has forced nearly 30,000 people, mainly Muslims, from their villages in the past 10 days, has its roots in long-standing ethnic and religious tensions suppressed by nearly 50 years of brutal military rule in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, the British newspaper The Guardian reported Wednesday.

The doomed boat was on its way to Malaysia, the British Broadcasting Corporation reported.

The United Nations describes the Rohingya as a persecuted religious and linguistic minority. The Myanmar government does not recognize them as citizens, but recent migrants from the Asian subcontinent, the newspaper said.

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