KUALA LUMPUR • A Rohingya migrant is feared to be the only survivor from a boat carrying at least two dozen asylum seekers that is believed to have run into difficulty off the Malaysian coast near Thailand, a coast guard official said yesterday.
Mr Mohamad Zawawi Abdullah, coast guard chief for the northern Malaysian states of Kedah and Perlis, said the 27-year-old migrant, named Nor Hossain, was detained by police after he swam to shore on the resort island of Langkawi.
“Based on information from the police, the illegal Rohingya migrant had jumped off the boat that had 24 other people and he was the only one who managed to swim to the shore safely,” Mr Zawawi said.
A search and rescue operation was launched, but another official said no bodies or survivors were found.
It is not clear what happened to the boat.
Muslim-majority Malaysia is a favoured destination for the Rohingya, who face persecution in their mostly Buddhist homeland of Myanmar. But the authorities have in recent months been trying to stop them from entering over coronavirus fears.
Many of the 700,000-plus Rohingya Muslims who fled a military crackdown in Myanmar three years ago have attempted to leave overcrowded refugee camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district on boats headed for Malaysia and neighbouring Indonesia.
Mr Zawawi said two coast guard aircraft and two boats have been deployed to search the suspected area.
Malaysia has stepped up maritime patrols since the outbreak of Covid-19, in an attempt to stop Rohingya boats from landing.
Although some have made it ashore, many boats have been turned back, sparking anger from rights groups.
A search and rescue operation was launched, but an official said no bodies or survivors were found. It is not clear what happened to the boat.