Desperate Rohingya kids flee alone by boat

Yahoo News

The two children stood on the beach, at the end of the only world they knew, torn between land and sea.

They couldn't go back to their tiny Muslim village in Myanmar's northwest Rakhine because it had been devoured in a fire set by an angry Buddhist mob. In the smoke and chaos, the siblings became separated from their family. And after seven months of searching, they had lost hope of finding anyone alive.

The only way was forward. Hungry and scared, they eyed a rickety wooden fishing boat in the darkness. Mohamad Husein, just 15, dug into his pocket and pulled out a little wad of money for the captain. He and his 9-year-old sister, Senwara Begum, climbed on board, cramming themselves tightly between the other ethnic Rohingya in the small hull.

As the ship pushed off, they didn't realize they were among hundreds, if not thousands, of children joining one of the world's biggest boat exoduses since the Vietnam War. They only understood it wasn't safe to stay in a country that didn't want them.

Mohamad had no idea where they were headed. And as Senwara looked back in tears, she wondered if she would ever see her parents again.

Neither could imagine the horrors that lay ahead. (AP)

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In this Oct. 19, 2013 photo, young ethnic Rohingya asylum seeker Senwara Begum, left, cries at a temporary shelter in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia after making a phone call to her family in Myanmar. After her tiny Muslim village in Myanmar's northwest Rakhine had been destroyed in a fire set by an angry Buddhist mob, she and her brother became separated from their family. (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara)
In this Oct. 19, 2013 photo, young ethnic Rohingya asylum seeker Senwara Begum, left, cries at a temporary shelter in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia after making a phone call to her family in Myanmar. After her tiny Muslim village in Myanmar's northwest Rakhine had been destroyed in a fire set by an angry Buddhist mob, she and her brother became separated from their family. (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara)
In this Oct. 19, 2013 photo, young ethnic Rohingya asylum seeker Senwara Begum, left, cries at a temporary shelter in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia after making a phone call to her family in Myanmar. After her tiny Muslim village in Myanmar's northwest Rakhine had been destroyed in a fire set by an angry Buddhist mob, she and her brother became separated from their family. (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara)
In this Oct. 11, 2013 photo, young ethnic Rohingya asylum seeker Senwara Begum from Myanmar, center, attends an English class at her temporary shelter in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia. Indonesia has been sympathetic to the Rohingya, and its president has sent a letter to his Myanmar counterpart calling for an end to the crisis. (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara)
In this Oct. 11, 2013 photo, young ethnic Rohingya asylum seeker Senwara Begum from Myanmar, center, attends an English class at her temporary shelter in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia. Indonesia has been sympathetic to the Rohingya, and its president has sent a letter to his Myanmar counterpart calling for an end to the crisis. (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara)
In this Oct. 11, 2013 photo, young ethnic Rohingya asylum seeker Senwara Begum from Myanmar, center, attends an English class at her temporary shelter in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia. Indonesia has been sympathetic to the Rohingya, and its president has sent a letter to his Myanmar counterpart calling for an end to the crisis. (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara)
In this Friday, Oct. 11, 2013 photo, young ethnic Rohingya asylum seeker Senwara Begum from Myanmar attends an English class at her temporary shelter in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia. Although sympathetic to the Rohingya, Indonesia only allows the refugees to stay until they can be resettled elsewhere, which can take years. (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara)
In this Friday, Oct. 11, 2013 photo, young ethnic Rohingya asylum seeker Senwara Begum from Myanmar attends an English class at her temporary shelter in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia. Although sympathetic to the Rohingya, Indonesia only allows the refugees to stay until they can be resettled elsewhere, which can take years. (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara)
In this Friday, Oct. 11, 2013 photo, young ethnic Rohingya asylum seeker Senwara Begum from Myanmar attends an English class at her temporary shelter in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia. Although sympathetic to the Rohingya, Indonesia only allows the refugees to stay until they can be resettled elsewhere, which can take years. (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara)
In this Oct. 20, 2013 photo, young ethnic Rohingya asylum seeker Senwara Begum, right, is helped by her foster father, Shamsul bin Sayed, to use Skype to talk to her family members in Myanmar from their temporary shelter in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia. "I'm fine," Senwara says, trying to sound upbeat. "I'm with a family that is taking good care of me. They love me. I'm learning things, English and religion." Her father reminds her to be a good girl. He is desperate to see his children again, but believes they are better off far away. (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara)
In this Oct. 20, 2013 photo, young ethnic Rohingya asylum seeker Senwara Begum, right, is helped by her foster father, Shamsul bin Sayed, to use Skype to talk to her family members in Myanmar from their temporary shelter in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia. "I'm fine," Senwara says, trying to sound upbeat. "I'm with a family that is taking good care of me. They love me. I'm learning things, English and religion." Her father reminds her to be a good girl. He is desperate to see his children again, but believes they are better off far away. (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara)
In this Oct. 20, 2013 photo, young ethnic Rohingya asylum seeker Senwara Begum, right, is helped by her foster father, Shamsul bin Sayed, to use Skype to talk to her family members in Myanmar from their temporary shelter in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia. "I'm fine," Senwara says, trying to sound upbeat. "I'm with a family that is taking good care of me. They love me. I'm learning things, English and religion." Her father reminds her to be a good girl. He is desperate to see his children again, but believes they are better off far away. (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara)
In this Nov. 23, 2013 photo, Rohingya refugee Mohamad Husein, from Myanmar, wipes tears from his eyes as he talks to reporters at his hostel on the outskirts of Alor Setar, Kedah, North Malaysia. After his tiny Muslim village in Myanmar's northwest Rakhine had been destroyed in a fire set by an angry Buddhist mob, he and his younger sister became separated from their family. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
In this Nov. 23, 2013 photo, Rohingya refugee Mohamad Husein, from Myanmar, wipes tears from his eyes as he talks to reporters at his hostel on the outskirts of Alor Setar, Kedah, North Malaysia. After his tiny Muslim village in Myanmar's northwest Rakhine had been destroyed in a fire set by an angry Buddhist mob, he and his younger sister became separated from their family. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
In this Nov. 23, 2013 photo, Rohingya refugee Mohamad Husein, from Myanmar, wipes tears from his eyes as he talks to reporters at his hostel on the outskirts of Alor Setar, Kedah, North Malaysia. After his tiny Muslim village in Myanmar's northwest Rakhine had been destroyed in a fire set by an angry Buddhist mob, he and his younger sister became separated from their family. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
In this Nov. 23, 2013 photo, Rohingya refugee Mohamad Husein, right, from Myanmar, eats dinner at his hostel with his compatriots on the outskirts of Alor Setar, Kedah, North Malaysia. For many fleeing Rohingya, Malaysia, is the preferred destination. Around 33,000 are registered there and an equal number are undocumented, according to the Rohingya Society of Malaysia. Those numbers have swelled with the violence in Myanmar. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
In this Nov. 23, 2013 photo, Rohingya refugee Mohamad Husein, right, from Myanmar, eats dinner at his hostel with his compatriots on the outskirts of Alor Setar, Kedah, North Malaysia. For many fleeing Rohingya, Malaysia, is the preferred destination. Around 33,000 are registered there and an equal number are undocumented, according to the Rohingya Society of Malaysia. Those numbers have swelled with the violence in Myanmar. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
In this Nov. 23, 2013 photo, Rohingya refugee Mohamad Husein, right, from Myanmar, eats dinner at his hostel with his compatriots on the outskirts of Alor Setar, Kedah, North Malaysia. For many fleeing Rohingya, Malaysia, is the preferred destination. Around 33,000 are registered there and an equal number are undocumented, according to the Rohingya Society of Malaysia. Those numbers have swelled with the violence in Myanmar. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
In this June 4, 2013 photo, young ethnic Rohingya asylum seeker Senwara Begum, center, cries during the trial of her brother, Mohamad Husein, who was accused of taking part in a brawl that left eight Buddhist Burmese fishermen dead, at a district court in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia. Senwara had slept through the brawl in a separate quarter for women. But when she awoke the next morning, her brother was gone. (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara)
In this June 4, 2013 photo, young ethnic Rohingya asylum seeker Senwara Begum, center, cries during the trial of her brother, Mohamad Husein, who was accused of taking part in a brawl that left eight Buddhist Burmese fishermen dead, at a district court in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia. Senwara had slept through the brawl in a separate quarter for women. But when she awoke the next morning, her brother was gone. (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara)
In this June 4, 2013 photo, young ethnic Rohingya asylum seeker Senwara Begum, center, cries during the trial of her brother, Mohamad Husein, who was accused of taking part in a brawl that left eight Buddhist Burmese fishermen dead, at a district court in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia. Senwara had slept through the brawl in a separate quarter for women. But when she awoke the next morning, her brother was gone. (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara)
In this Nov. 30, 2013 photo, sisters of Tawhera Begum prepare a meal for the family at the Ohn Taw refugee camp on the outskirts of Sittwe, Myanmar. Their tiny Muslim village in Myanmar's northwest Rakhine had been destroyed in a fire set by an angry Buddhist mob, and their 9- and 15-year-old siblings were lost for months afterward. The two were among hundreds, if not thousands, of children who are joining the flood of Rohingya Muslim refugees leaving Myanmar, one of the world's biggest boat exoduses since the Vietnam War. (AP Photo/Kaung Htet)
In this Nov. 30, 2013 photo, sisters of Tawhera Begum prepare a meal for the family at the Ohn Taw refugee camp on the outskirts of Sittwe, Myanmar. Their tiny Muslim village in Myanmar's northwest Rakhine had been destroyed in a fire set by an angry Buddhist mob, and their 9- and 15-year-old siblings were lost for months afterward. The two were among hundreds, if not thousands, of children who are joining the flood of Rohingya Muslim refugees leaving Myanmar, one of the world's biggest boat exoduses since the Vietnam War. (AP Photo/Kaung Htet)
In this Nov. 30, 2013 photo, sisters of Tawhera Begum prepare a meal for the family at the Ohn Taw refugee camp on the outskirts of Sittwe, Myanmar. Their tiny Muslim village in Myanmar's northwest Rakhine had been destroyed in a fire set by an angry Buddhist mob, and their 9- and 15-year-old siblings were lost for months afterward. The two were among hundreds, if not thousands, of children who are joining the flood of Rohingya Muslim refugees leaving Myanmar, one of the world's biggest boat exoduses since the Vietnam War. (AP Photo/Kaung Htet)
In this Nov. 29, 2013 photo, Rohingya men carry baskets of fish near the The' Chaung refugee camp on the outskirts of Sittwe, Myanmar. About 1.3 million Rohingya Muslims live in the predominantly Buddhist country of 60 million. Myanmar considers them illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh, though some families have lived here for generations. (AP Photo/Kaung Htet)
In this Nov. 29, 2013 photo, Rohingya men carry baskets of fish near the The' Chaung refugee camp on the outskirts of Sittwe, Myanmar. About 1.3 million Rohingya Muslims live in the predominantly Buddhist country of 60 million. Myanmar considers them illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh, though some families have lived here for generations. (AP Photo/Kaung Htet)
In this Nov. 29, 2013 photo, Rohingya men carry baskets of fish near the The' Chaung refugee camp on the outskirts of Sittwe, Myanmar. About 1.3 million Rohingya Muslims live in the predominantly Buddhist country of 60 million. Myanmar considers them illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh, though some families have lived here for generations. (AP Photo/Kaung Htet)
In this Nov. 30 2013 photo, Mohamad Iris, father of Senwara and Mohamad, prays at a makeshift mosque at the Ohn Taw refugee camp on the outskirts of Sittwe, Myanmar. After his tiny Muslim village in Myanmar's northwest Rakhine had been destroyed in a fire set by an angry Buddhist mob, the two children, 9- and 15-years old, became separated from the family. (AP Photo/Kaung Htet)
In this Nov. 30 2013 photo, Mohamad Iris, father of Senwara and Mohamad, prays at a makeshift mosque at the Ohn Taw refugee camp on the outskirts of Sittwe, Myanmar. After his tiny Muslim village in Myanmar's northwest Rakhine had been destroyed in a fire set by an angry Buddhist mob, the two children, 9- and 15-years old, became separated from the family. (AP Photo/Kaung Htet)
In this Nov. 30 2013 photo, Mohamad Iris, father of Senwara and Mohamad, prays at a makeshift mosque at the Ohn Taw refugee camp on the outskirts of Sittwe, Myanmar. After his tiny Muslim village in Myanmar's northwest Rakhine had been destroyed in a fire set by an angry Buddhist mob, the two children, 9- and 15-years old, became separated from the family. (AP Photo/Kaung Htet)
In this Aug. 7, 2013 photo, Senwara Begum, a young ethnic Rohingya asylum seeker, watches her friends play in the rain outside their temporary shelter in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia. After her tiny Muslim village in Myanmar's northwest Rakhine had been destroyed in a fire set by an angry Buddhist mob, she and her brother became separated from their family. (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara)
In this Aug. 7, 2013 photo, Senwara Begum, a young ethnic Rohingya asylum seeker, watches her friends play in the rain outside their temporary shelter in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia. After her tiny Muslim village in Myanmar's northwest Rakhine had been destroyed in a fire set by an angry Buddhist mob, she and her brother became separated from their family. (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara)
In this Aug. 7, 2013 photo, Senwara Begum, a young ethnic Rohingya asylum seeker, watches her friends play in the rain outside their temporary shelter in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia. After her tiny Muslim village in Myanmar's northwest Rakhine had been destroyed in a fire set by an angry Buddhist mob, she and her brother became separated from their family. (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara)
In this Aug. 7, 2013 photo, Rohingya refugee children play in the rain outside their temporary shelter in Medan, Indonesia. Indonesia has been sympathetic to the Rohingya, who have been fleeing violence in Myanmar in greater numbers, and the Indonesian president has sent a letter to his Myanmar counterpart calling for an end to the crisis. But Indonesia has not opened its doors to the Rohingya. It only allows them to stay until they can be resettled elsewhere, which can take years. (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara)
In this Aug. 7, 2013 photo, Rohingya refugee children play in the rain outside their temporary shelter in Medan, Indonesia. Indonesia has been sympathetic to the Rohingya, who have been fleeing violence in Myanmar in greater numbers, and the Indonesian president has sent a letter to his Myanmar counterpart calling for an end to the crisis. But Indonesia has not opened its doors to the Rohingya. It only allows them to stay until they can be resettled elsewhere, which can take years. (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara)
In this Aug. 7, 2013 photo, Rohingya refugee children play in the rain outside their temporary shelter in Medan, Indonesia. Indonesia has been sympathetic to the Rohingya, who have been fleeing violence in Myanmar in greater numbers, and the Indonesian president has sent a letter to his Myanmar counterpart calling for an end to the crisis. But Indonesia has not opened its doors to the Rohingya. It only allows them to stay until they can be resettled elsewhere, which can take years. (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara)
In this Nov. 30 2013 photo, Tawhera Begum, sister of Senwara, jumps as she plays with friends at the Ohn Taw refugee camp on the outskirts of Sittwe, Myanmar. Their tiny Muslim village in Myanmar's northwest Rakhine had been destroyed in a fire set by an angry Buddhist mob. (AP Photo/Kaung Htet)
In this Nov. 30 2013 photo, Tawhera Begum, sister of Senwara, jumps as she plays with friends at the Ohn Taw refugee camp on the outskirts of Sittwe, Myanmar. Their tiny Muslim village in Myanmar's northwest Rakhine had been destroyed in a fire set by an angry Buddhist mob. (AP Photo/Kaung Htet)
In this Nov. 30 2013 photo, Tawhera Begum, sister of Senwara, jumps as she plays with friends at the Ohn Taw refugee camp on the outskirts of Sittwe, Myanmar. Their tiny Muslim village in Myanmar's northwest Rakhine had been destroyed in a fire set by an angry Buddhist mob. (AP Photo/Kaung Htet)
In this Nov. 29, 2013 photo, Tawhera Begum, center, sister of Senwara, cries as she watches a video interview of her sister at the Ohn Taw refugee camp on the outskirts of Sittwe, Myanmar. After their tiny Muslim village in Myanmar's northwest Rakhine had been destroyed in a fire set by an angry Buddhist mob, Senwara, 9, and brother, Mohamed, 15, became separated from the family. (AP Photo/Kaung Htet)
In this Nov. 29, 2013 photo, Tawhera Begum, center, sister of Senwara, cries as she watches a video interview of her sister at the Ohn Taw refugee camp on the outskirts of Sittwe, Myanmar. After their tiny Muslim village in Myanmar's northwest Rakhine had been destroyed in a fire set by an angry Buddhist mob, Senwara, 9, and brother, Mohamed, 15, became separated from the family. (AP Photo/Kaung Htet)
In this Nov. 29, 2013 photo, Tawhera Begum, center, sister of Senwara, cries as she watches a video interview of her sister at the Ohn Taw refugee camp on the outskirts of Sittwe, Myanmar. After their tiny Muslim village in Myanmar's northwest Rakhine had been destroyed in a fire set by an angry Buddhist mob, Senwara, 9, and brother, Mohamed, 15, became separated from the family. (AP Photo/Kaung Htet)
In this Nov. 29, 2013 photo Tawhera Begum, front second right, sister of Senwara, sheds a tear as she watches a video intervew of her sister at the Ohn Taw refugee camp on the outskirts of Sittwe, Myanmar. After their tiny Muslim village in Myanmar's northwest Rakhine had been destroyed in a fire set by an angry Buddhist mob, Senwara, 9, and brother, Mohamed, 15, became separated from the family. (AP Photo/Kaung Htet)
In this Nov. 29, 2013 photo Tawhera Begum, front second right, sister of Senwara, sheds a tear as she watches a video intervew of her sister at the Ohn Taw refugee camp on the outskirts of Sittwe, Myanmar. After their tiny Muslim village in Myanmar's northwest Rakhine had been destroyed in a fire set by an angry Buddhist mob, Senwara, 9, and brother, Mohamed, 15, became separated from the family. (AP Photo/Kaung Htet)
In this Nov. 29, 2013 photo Tawhera Begum, front second right, sister of Senwara, sheds a tear as she watches a video intervew of her sister at the Ohn Taw refugee camp on the outskirts of Sittwe, Myanmar. After their tiny Muslim village in Myanmar's northwest Rakhine had been destroyed in a fire set by an angry Buddhist mob, Senwara, 9, and brother, Mohamed, 15, became separated from the family. (AP Photo/Kaung Htet)
In this Nov. 29, 2013 photo, members of Senwara Begum's family watch her video interview at the Ohn Taw refugee camp on the outskirts of Sittwe, Myanmar. After their tiny Muslim village in Myanmar's northwest Rakhine had been destroyed in a fire set by an angry Buddhist mob, Senwara, 9, and brother, Mohamed, 15, became separated from the family. (AP Photo/Kaung Htet)
In this Nov. 29, 2013 photo, members of Senwara Begum's family watch her video interview at the Ohn Taw refugee camp on the outskirts of Sittwe, Myanmar. After their tiny Muslim village in Myanmar's northwest Rakhine had been destroyed in a fire set by an angry Buddhist mob, Senwara, 9, and brother, Mohamed, 15, became separated from the family. (AP Photo/Kaung Htet)
In this Nov. 29, 2013 photo, members of Senwara Begum's family watch her video interview at the Ohn Taw refugee camp on the outskirts of Sittwe, Myanmar. After their tiny Muslim village in Myanmar's northwest Rakhine had been destroyed in a fire set by an angry Buddhist mob, Senwara, 9, and brother, Mohamed, 15, became separated from the family. (AP Photo/Kaung Htet)
In this Nov. 28, 2013 photo, Rohingiya men push their boat to deeper waters in a lagoon close to the The' Chaung refugee camp on the outskirts of Sittwe, Myanmar. About 1.3 million Rohingya Muslims live in the predominantly Buddhist country of 60 million. Myanmar considers them illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh, though some families have lived here for generations. (AP Photo/Kaung Htet)
In this Nov. 28, 2013 photo, Rohingiya men push their boat to deeper waters in a lagoon close to the The' Chaung refugee camp on the outskirts of Sittwe, Myanmar. About 1.3 million Rohingya Muslims live in the predominantly Buddhist country of 60 million. Myanmar considers them illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh, though some families have lived here for generations. (AP Photo/Kaung Htet)
In this Nov. 28, 2013 photo, Rohingiya men push their boat to deeper waters in a lagoon close to the The' Chaung refugee camp on the outskirts of Sittwe, Myanmar. About 1.3 million Rohingya Muslims live in the predominantly Buddhist country of 60 million. Myanmar considers them illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh, though some families have lived here for generations. (AP Photo/Kaung Htet)

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