Yangon: A boat carrying more than 60 people capsized in rough waters off of Sittwe in Myanmar's Rakhine state on Tuesday, killing at least 21, including nine children, according to a U.N. official.
Janet Jackson, U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Myanmar, issued a statement saying six survivors were being treated for injuries at local health facilities, and that other victims remain missing.
She also said the majority of the passengers on the boat were internally displaced people from Sin Tet Maw, a camp for the Rohingya Muslim minority, who were on an authorized day-trip to make purchases at market.
"This accident serves as a tragic reminder of the vulnerabilities that many communities and families face in this area of Rakhine, where their only option is to use this mode of travel in order to access markets, livelihoods and other basic services that are essential for a dignified life," Jackson said.
Witnesses to the boat capsize off Myanmar that left some 21 people dead, including children, say the victims were from the persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority and blamed the tragedy on travel restrictions that forced them to journey by sea.
Most of the passengers were inhabitants of Sin Tet Maw, in Paukaw township, a camp for Rohingya Muslim minority members forced from their homes by bouts of communal violence.
“It (the boat accident) happened because of unsafe transport… we cannot use direct transport (overland) to Sittwe to buy goods or medicine,” Rohingya activist, Kyaw Hla Aung, said from Sittwe.
According to a report by Agence France Presse, witnesses blamed the tragedy on these transit restrictions, which force displaced persons to travel by sea.
The United Nations on April 4 gave Myanmar's incoming civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) 100 days to improve living conditions for the country's ethnic minority Rohingya community.