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60 missing after Bangladesh boat carrying migrants sinks

The overcrowded boat went down in rough seas off Teknaf, on the southern tip of Bangladesh.

COX'S BAZAR, BANGLADESH // About 60 Bangladeshis and Rohingya Muslims were missing yesterday after an overcrowded boat carrying them from Myanmar sank in the Bay of Bengal.

The boat went down in rough seas off Teknaf, on the southern tip of Bangladesh, Lieutenant Colonel Mohammad Jahid of the Bangladesh border guards force said. Twelve people had been rescued and the search was on for the others.

"We were heading to Malaysia for jobs but the boat suddenly went upside down and sank," survivor Jamir Hossain said. "I floated for several hours before a fishing boat picked me up."

It was the second such accident in 10 days. A boat carrying about 130 people sank off Myanmar on October 28 and only a handful of people were rescued, Col Jahid said.

Another survivor of yesterday's sinking, Nazir Ahmed, said the boat was crammed with people, most of whom had no travel documents and had each paid 22,000 taka (Dh1,000) for the journey to Malaysia.

"The boat was overladen," Mr Ahmed said.

Bangladeshis and members of Myanmar's Rohingya community, who face persecution in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, often make the perilous journey by sea to South East Asia in search of work.

The stream of Rohingyas trying to leave Myanmar has intensified this year because of violence between the Muslim community in western Myanmar's Rakhine state and Buddhists.

Nearly 200 people have been killed in intermittent clashes since June and tens of thousands, most of them Rohingyas, have been displaced.

Myanmar regards the estimated 800,000 Rohingyas in the country as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and denies them citizenship.

Bangladesh has refused to grant Rohingyas refugee status since 1992 and regularly turns back people trying to slip out of Myanmar. The United Nations calls the Rohingyas "virtually friendless".

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