USCIRF Urges Thailand, Malaysia to Protect Rohingya Muslim Refugees Stranded at Sea

WASHINGTON, DC – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) calls on the governments of Thailand and Malaysia to admit boats carrying Rohingya Muslim refugees stranded at sea.

Thai and Malaysian authorities must recognize their obligations under international law to refugees fleeing ethnic and religious violence,” USCIRF Chair Gayle Manchin stated.

The USCIRF calls on the governments of Thailand and Malaysia to admit boats carrying Rohingya Muslim refugees stranded at sea.
Photo by Prachatai, Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

“USCIRF urges them to grant refuge to Rohingya Muslims fleeing ethnic cleansing in Burma. If not, hundreds could perish at sea.”

In recent months, a number of vessels carrying Rohingya Muslims fleeing ethnic and religious-based violence in Burma have been turned away by Thai and Malaysian authorities. On June 8, Malaysia accepted one boat only after it discovered the engine had failed. All 269 Rohingya on board were detained. With its engine repaired, there are reports Malaysia is planning on sending these Rohingya back to sea. In 2015, hundreds of Rohingya refugees died onboard the ships after being refused entry to Thailand and Malaysia.

“The Rohingya people have faced unimaginable horrors in their home country of Burma,” USCIRF Commissioner Johnnie Moore added.

“We urge the State Department to work with its counterparts in Thailand and Malaysia, and with the appropriate UN agencies, to ensure the safety of these vulnerable people and to address once-and-for-all the ongoing suffering of Burma’s Rohingya community.”

In its 2020 Annual Report, USCIRF recommended that the State Department designate Burma as a ‘country of particular concern’ in large part because of its ethnic and religious violence against Rohingya, and recently released a factsheet about the International Court of Justice case to hold Burma accountable for these international crimes. USCIRF has also recommended the State Department include Malaysia in the Special Watch List in part for its treatment of religious minority communities.


The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze, and report on threats to religious freedom abroad. USCIRF makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion and belief. To interview a Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at media@uscirf.gov or Danielle Ashbahian at dashbahian@uscirf.gov.


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