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Burmese security officers guarding their waters/AFP

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Singapore turns away ship believed carrying Rohingya

Burmese security officers guarding their waters/AFP

SINGAPORE, Dec 13 – Singapore has turned away a ship carrying 40 people rescued off Myanmar, port officials said Thursday, amid media reports the passengers could be stateless Muslim Rohingya.

Singapore’s Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) said it denied entry to the Vietnamese-registered bulk carrier Nosco Victory because of a lack of information about its passengers.

The authority said in a statement it had received a “pre-arrival notification” that a vessel which rescued 40 people from the sea off Myanmar wanted to enter Singapore.

In coordination with the MPA, India’s Maritime Rescue and Coordination Centre in Port Blair advised the ship’s captain to “proceed to the nearest place of safety to disembark the rescued persons”.

However the captain ignored the instruction and insisted on proceeding to Singapore, which was at least three days away, the MPA added.

“Information provided by the vessel’s master concerning the rescued persons is sketchy and there is no other official documentation to assist at this point, but they do not appear to be persons eligible to enter Singapore,” the MPA said, without providing further details.

Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald newspaper said the 40 are believed to be Rohingya, a stateless Muslim minority from Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine fleeing ethnic violence there.

Clashes between Buddhists and the Rohingya have left scores of people dead and displaced more than 115,000 people since June.

According to the Herald, the 40 were believed to have been in the water for 30 hours before they were rescued on December 5.

It said they are survivors from a Bangladesh-flagged ship the Nayou that sank on December 4 while on its way to Malaysia, a largely Muslim country that has a large Rohingya population.

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Up to 160 Rohingya aboard the Nayou are believed to have drowned, the newspaper said.

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