boat sinks off Malaysia, 34 Indonesians missing, three dead
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[June 18, 2014]
By Trinna Leong
KUALA LANGAT Malaysia (Reuters) - An
overloaded boat carrying suspected illegal Indonesian immigrants sank as
it left Malaysia's west coast early on Wednesday, and at least three
passengers drowned and 34 were missing.
The boat, whose passengers included women and children, sank at
the mouth of a river shortly after midnight as it left Malaysia's
Carey Island, likely bound for Indonesia's Sumatra island, officials
and witnesses said.
Police said the boat lacked safety equipment such as life jackets,
but that rescuers were still holding out hope of finding more
survivors. The boat went down in shallow water close to shore.
"It is likely that survivors could have swum ashore and went into
hiding since they have no legal documents here," said Mohammed
Hambali Yaakup, head of operations in the area for the Malaysian
Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA).
Hambali said he could not confirm reports that a people-smuggling
gang had been involved with the boat. All 60 survivors have been
arrested under immigration laws, he said.
Malaysia, one of Southeast Asia's wealthier economies, has long been
a magnet for illegal immigrants from Indonesia and other poorer
countries in the region. Many undocumented Indonesians work in
Malaysia's extensive oil palm plantations, a mainstay of its
"This was an illegal boat and all the passengers were Indonesian,"
Mohamad Zuri, another MMEA official told Reuters.
Police said two bodies had been recovered. A Reuters reporter saw
three bodies - two on the deck of a rescue boat and another washed
up on shore.
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Rescuers were scouring the area for survivors and had deployed a
helicopter, one large ship and eight smaller boats in the operation,
Despite periodic crackdowns on illegal workers, Malaysia is home to
an estimated 2 million undocumented immigrants or about 7 percent of
its 29 million population.
The question of migrant workers has long been a touchy issue in
Indonesia. Both candidates in a July 9 Indonesian presidential race
have said that Indonesian workers overseas, often doing menial
labour, need better protection.
(Additional reporting by Al-Zaquan Amer Hamazah and Anuradha Raghu;
writing by Stuart Grudgings; Editing by Nick Macfie and Robert
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