Jakarta, 16/5/2020 (Antara) - The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has again placed the Rohingya under the media spotlight, as several ASEAN members are refusing helpless Rohingyas aboard boats from landing on their lands on pretext of the disease outbreak.
On April 16, 2020, the Malaysian navy had intercepted a boat, carrying aboard some 200 Rohingya refugees, off the coast of Malaysia and prevented it from entering the Malaysian waters.
Bangladeshi coast guards had earlier intercepted another boatload of refugees that, the survivors averred, had been turned away from the Malaysian waters almost two months earlier. A total of 382 starving Rohingya refugees were taken off the boat, and survivors reported that at least 30 people onboard had died before the rescue.
Following those incidents and fueled by misinformation, fake news, and provocations, the rising hostility towards refugees in Malaysia surfaced through several anti-Rohingya petitions and hate speeches on social media.
The COVID-19 pandemic does not create a justification for risking the lives of refugees on overcrowded boats, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) stated while expressing its concern.
Malaysias claims to support the rights of Rohingya mean shockingly little when they push desperate refugees back to sea, Phil Robertson, the deputy director of HRWs Asia division, affirmed.
In Indonesia, Acehs waters and air police currently intensified patrolling to stop some 500 Rohingya refugees aboard two boats, reportedly sailing nearby while en route to Malaysia, from making transits on Aceh soil.