Pressure group Human Rights at Sea (HRAS) is urging commercial ships to be alert to and be prepared to help vessels that might be carrying large numbers of trafficked people in the Andaman Sea.
HRAS warned about the “emerging issue” of possible mass casualties as trafficked people, possibly in their thousands, spread across multiple ships, are abandoned by people smugglers.
HRAS especially mentioned the northern part of the Malacca Strait and waters around the northwest of Indonesia’s Aceh Province.
“HRAS urges the global shipping community and owners to consider acting on this information for vessels in the vicinity and transiting the straits to be aware of the issue and to be vigilant,” HRAS said in a statement issued today (12 May).
“Details of the precise type of vessels are unknown at this time, though they are thought to be flying either Indonesian or Thai flags,” the statement added.
Many of those trafficked are thought to be from northern Myanmar, and in particular from the Rohingya Muslim community, which is facing persecution and violence.
“The smugglers are now retaining the migrants in ships and staying out at sea to avoid detection. Issues being highlighted are the conditions on board if the migrants cannot be off-loaded and what the traffickers will do with those migrants to avoid detention and arrest,” said David Hammond, the founder of HRAS said.
Vessels passing through the Malacca Strait and nearby could be involved in search and rescue operations to avert a tragedy, HRAS suggested.