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Almost 500 Rohingya Muslims rescued off Indonesia coast

Boats carrying hundreds of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar have washed ashore in Indonesia. Since 2012, the Rohingya have been fleeing Myanmar, where they are persecuted on account of their faith.

The 469 men, women and children arrived on two separate boats, said Steve Hamilton, deputy mission chief at the International Organization for Migration in Jakarta, Indonesia's capital.

Teams were racing to Mantang Puntong in Aceh province, where the boats landed, Hamilton said.

The Rohingya have suffered from state-sanctioned discrimination in Myanmar for decades.

Attacks by Buddhist mobs in Myanmar have sparked one of the largest exoduses of boat people since the Vietnam War, sending at least 100,000 people fleeing in the last three years, according to Chris Lewa, director of human rights organization Arakan Project, which has monitored the movements of Rohingya for more than a decade.

Earlier this month

, mass graves containing what was believed to be murdered Rohingya were found in neighboring Thailand.

Refugee business

Though their first stop has in the past been Thailand - where the Rohingya waited in jungle camps while brokers collected hefty "ransoms" from family members before allowing them to continue their journeys onward - tactics have changed in recent months.

They are now being held on boats at sea, Lewa said, estimating that 7,000 to 8,000 Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants are currently parked in the Malacca Straits, unable to disembark because of crackdowns on trafficking networks in Thailand and Malaysia.

glb/jr (AFP, AP)

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