Bodies of 3 Rohingya refugees are found dead as Indonesia ends rescue for capsized boat

Rohingya refugees stand on their capsized boat before being rescued in the waters off West Aceh, Indonesia, Thursday, March 21, 2024. The wooden boat carrying dozens of Rohingya Muslims capsized off Indonesia's northernmost coast on Wednesday, according to local fishermen. (AP Photo/Reza Saifullah)

Rohingya refugees stand on their capsized boat before being rescued in the waters off West Aceh, Indonesia, Thursday, March 21, 2024. The wooden boat carrying dozens of Rohingya Muslims capsized off Indonesia’s northernmost coast on Wednesday, according to local fishermen. (AP Photo/Reza Saifullah)

CALANG, Indonesia (AP) — The bodies of three Rohingya refugees were found in the sea as the Indonesian authorities ended a search for survivors from a boat that capsized near Aceh province, the provincial search and rescue agency said Sunday.

Fishers and a search and rescue team rescued 75 people from the boat on Thursday — 44 men, 22 women and nine children — after they huddled on its overturned hull throughout the night.

A few were taken to a local hospital for treatment, but most were sent to a temporary shelter in the Aceh Barat district. Several told UNHCR workers they had lost family members on the journey.

Fishers first spotted the three bodies and reported them to local authorities on Saturday.

“After we searched the area, the team found three bodies, two adult women and one boy. They are allegedly Rohingya refugees who were the passengers of the capsized and sunken boat,” Al Hussain, chief of Banda Aceh Search and Rescue Agency in a statement on Sunday.

The bodies were immediately taken to the hospital in Calang city in Aceh Jaya district, before local authorities buried them.

Faisal Rahman, a UNHCR staff member in Aceh, said that some of the survivors also helped to identify the bodies.

“We have verified as we take one of the refugees to identify and verify that they were together on the boat,” Faisal Rahman, a UNHCR staff member in Aceh, said Saturday evening.

Local authorities in Aceh have received several reports about dead bodies floating in nearby waters since Saturday.

U.N. agencies in a statement on Friday said that about 70 Rohingya refugees are feared missing or dead from a boat that made a grueling sea voyage from Bangladesh and sank off Indonesia’s coast this week.

About 1 million of the predominately Muslim Rohingya live in Bangladesh as refugees from Myanmar. They include about 740,000 who fled in 2017 to escape a brutal counterinsurgency campaign by Myanmar’s security forces, who were accused of committing mass rapes and killings and burning thousands of homes. The Rohingya minority in Myanmar faces widespread discrimination and most are denied citizenship.

Indonesia, like Thailand and Malaysia, is not a signatory to the United Nations’ 1951 Refugee Convention, and so is not obligated to accept them. However, the country generally provides temporary shelter to refugees in distress.

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Tarigan reported from Jakarta.

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