The images you are about to see perhaps reflect the most insensitive and callous attitude human beings can show towards misery and deprivation caused by our silence, ironically, without being ignorant. Around 400 souls including women and children are dancing around death in a ship in the Andaman Sea since last week, without any food, water, sanitation facilities and healthcare, as no country – Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Bangladesh – wants them on their land.
The ignored and left-on-its-own ship is carrying Rohingyas and Bangladeshi immigrants fleeing Myanmar where successive governments, mostly after 1960, haven’t treated the distinct Muslim ethnic group as its citizens.
Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (Brouk) told BBC that Myanmar governments argue Rohingyas are not a genuine ethnic group but Bengali migrants who represent a divisive leftover from colonial times.
They are denied basic services and their movements are severely restricted. The repression of the Rohingyas has gradually intensified since the process of reforms introduced by President Thein Sein in 2011, Brouk says. In June and October 2012 there were large scale attacks on Rohingyas in Rakhine State.
In the past three years, more than 120,000 Rohingyas have boarded ships to flee abroad, according to the UN refugee agency, BBC report reads.
However, the case of the ‘unwanted’ ship roaming in the waters for many days, has for the first time brought the gravity of the situation under global attention.
Reports say that with no food and water available, many desperate voyagers are drinking their urine to survive. Aljazeera reported that a person on board, “went crazy” and jumped to death in the sea.
According to BBC, most aid agencies and NGOs agree that countries like Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia have a moral imperative – if not a legal requirement – to feed and provide water to the refugees in their territorial waters.
But, will that end the crisis? For how long will they remain caught in the swirling sea with no hope of setting foot on land? More frankly, will they live till then?
Reporters and cameraman who sailed into the sea to cover the unfolding crisis recalled desperate pleas and cries made by the marooned children and women asking for food and rescue.
While the impact of UN’s intervention remains to be seen, the situation at sea (as there is no ground and that’s exactly what they are looking for) remains terrible. At a time when events like the fate of a celebrity’s jail-term hogs the headlines and creates uproar, the fate of Rohingyas continues to remain buried in that distant sea of indifference.