More than five Rohingyas, who were among some 90 on a boat adrift in the Andaman Sea, have died and the rest are desperate for food and water, said Fortify Rights, quoting families who talked to the refugees.
"More than five people died today…please try to send water by any means," a Rohingya man told the regional rights body in one recording.
Fortify Rights spoke with Rohingya refugees in Malaysia, Bangladesh, and India, who made phone contacts with passengers on the boat.
A Rohingya on the boat told a family member in Bangladesh over phone that there are 90 people on board, including 65 women, who departed Bangladesh on February 11 and that the boat went adrift after engine failure.
Bangladesh is home to some one million Rohingyas, 750,000 of whom fled brutal military crackdown in Myanmar's Rakhine State in 2017. Human smuggling of Rohingyas from the shores of Bangladesh or Myanmar has been happening frequently, with many of them intending to meet their families or for marriage in Malaysia or Indonesia.
Fortify Rights in a statement yesterday said it received taped phone conversations between Rohingya refugees, who claimed to be on the boat, and their relatives.
In another audio recorded on February 22, a Rohingya man on the boat says, "The India Navy is helping us. They provided food to us. Please tell my mother to pray for us. We can drink water now."
Mohammed Jubar (not his real name) in Kutupalong refugee camp told Fortify Rights on February 22 that his brother departed on the boat more than 10 days earlier. He said his brother called him from the boat on February 21, saying he and others were out of drinking water and stranded at sea.
"I heard people are dying on the boat," Jubar said. "If they have to stay on the boat, my brother will also die."
Jubar told Fortify Rights that on February 21 he received a call from a broker requesting a payment.
"[The broker] told us to give Tk 200,000 [$2,300]," Jubar said. "If we pay him, he said on the phone he will bring my brother home."
The name of the trafficker is on file with Fortify Rights.
Another Rohingya refugee in Malaysia, who spoke to a relative on the boat, told Fortify Rights that his relative and others on the boat "need water and food".
After locating the boat on February 22, the Indian Navy reportedly provided food, water, and first aid to the refugees on the boat.
The rights body called for the regional governments in South and Southeast Asia to support safe disembarkation and humanitarian assistance for scores of Rohingya refugees on a boat adrift at sea.
"Too many Rohingya lives have already been lost at sea due to the callous inaction or pushbacks of regional governments," said Amy Smith, executive director of Fortify Rights.
"Regional governments in South and Southeast Asia should urgently protect those on board to prevent any further loss of life."