Hundreds of desperate people flee Myanmar on rickety boats: UNHCR

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Two displaced boys in Rakhine state play in a river (© UNHCR/S.Kelly)

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) on Friday said it has received worrying reports that more people are leaving on smugglers' boats from the Bay of Bengal.

The agency says this could signal the start of the annual sailing season when thousands of desperate people from Myanmar's Rakhine state risk their lives on rickety boats to find safety and stability elsewhere.

Dan McNorton is UNHCR spokesperson in Geneva.

"According to UNHCR sources, more than 1, 500 people boarded boats in northern Rakhine state over the courser of four days last week. There have also been reports of passengers drowning off the coast of Rakhine state last weekend. UNHCR has been unable to verify the conflicting information so far and we are seeking details from the authorities at present." (23")

UNHCR points out that more than a year after the first wave of inter-communal violence erupted in Rakhine state, about 140,000 people remain internally displaced.

It says Muslim communities in the state, especially the Rohingya, struggle with limitations on freedom of movement, access to basic services and livelihood, protection from extortion and forced labour, and are sometimes driven to desperation.

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

Duration: 1’20″

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