Malaysia allows Rohingya refugees to enter after intercepting boat

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia intercepted a boat carrying 56 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar off its northern island of Langkawi yesterday and will allow them to enter on humanitarian grounds.

The boat had stopped at an island in southern Thailand on Saturday after a storm, with officials there saying the refugees were heading for Malaysia.

It had set sail from Rakhine state, the UN refugee agency said.

The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency said the boat was carrying 19 men, 17 women and 20 children.

It had since been escorted to the peninsula and its occupants handed over to immigration authorities for processing.

Malaysia's standard policy has been to turn away refugee boats attempting to make landfall, unless weather conditions are bad.

"Generally all 56 passengers, mostly children and women, are safe but tired and hungry," Malaysian navy chief Admiral Ahmad Kamarulzaman Ahmad Badaruddin said.

"We have provided them with water, food and other humanitarian assistance."

Meanwhile, Facebook's chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said the company is aware that its tools have been used to spread anti-Rohingya propaganda and "incite real harm" in Myanmar.

In an interview published by online news site Vox, he said Facebook is paying attention to its role as a platform for disseminating messages that could fuel conflict between Rohingya Muslims and Rakhine Buddhists. - REUTERS, AFP