Malaysia's police said that thirty-four Rohingya were found on the beach Friday, March 1st, the first of the Muslim minority group thought to have arrived in the country by sea for almost a year.
About 740,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar for Bangladesh after a military clampdown in August 2017, joining huge numbers already confined to camps. AFP reports.
Local police officer Nahar Jalaluddin told AFP that the Rohingya were discovered on an isolated stretch of coast in the northern state of Perlis.
Jalaluddin said: "They were tired, weak and hungry," and added "The refugees, who included men, women and children, are now in the custody of the immigration authorities."
The official said he suspected they had been ferried into Malaysian waters from neighbouring Thailand by people smugglers under cover of darkness, and dumped close to the shore.
The New Straits Times newspaper reported that villagers found the Rohingya on the shore covered with mud, and many were crying.
It is the first time since April 2018 that Malaysian authorities have found a group of Rohingya who have made it to the country by sea.
It was not clear whether they had started their journey in Myanmar or Bangladesh, where huge numbers of Rohingya are living in squalid refugee camps.
Bangladesh security forces have stopped repeated attempts by smugglers to transport Rohingya to Malaysia by boat. Authorities fear many are seeking to make the crossing before the start of the monsoon season at the end of March.
Relatively affluent, Muslim-majority Malaysia has long been a favourite destination for Rohingya, where they are a source of labour in low-paying industries such as agriculture and construction.
The United Nations General Assembly approved a resolution in December condemning "gross human rights violations and abuses" against Myanmar's Rohingya, but the country has rejected the UN's conclusions.