Bangladesh officials said on Monday a fishing boat carrying Rohingyas to Southeast Asia did not set sail from its shores, where close to one million refugees live in congested camps.
"The boat didn't leave from Bangladesh," Additional Superintendent of Cox's Bazar police Afrujul Haque Tutul, where the Rohingya camps are located.
"But, in light of the news, we are investigating this matter."
The boat, en route to Malaysia where there is a sizeable Rohingya community, stopped at an island off the west coast of Thailand early Sunday due to bad weather.
Thai officials said there were about 56 women, men and children on board and that the Rohingya would continue towards their destination.
Relief and Refugee Repatriation Commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam said local authorities had no such information about Rohingya trying their luck once again on the open ocean.
"We don't have any such intelligence about anyone leaving Bangladeshi shores for Malaysia by boat," he said.
"They (boats) are not allowed to go out. It would be very hard to sneak out of our coastal patrol. I don't think these people sailed away from here," Bangladesh Coast Guard Assistant Director (intelligence) Lt Commander Abdullah Al Maruf told AFP.
Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said it was concerned about the safety Rohingya refugees on the boat.
"Given the poor weather conditions currently prevailing in the waters off the west coast of the Thailand-Malaysia border, we are concerned for the safety of the refugees,” said Caroline Gluck, a UNHCR spokeswoman based in Cox’s Bazar.
"If they are found to be in distress, we hope they will be rescued and allowed to disembark in accordance with international maritime law,” she said in an email.
It was the first Rohingya vessel, plying a route refugees have used for years to get to Southeast Asia, to be spotted off Thailand in more than a year. There are signs that overcrowding in Bangladeshi camps could prompt many others to make similarly perilous voyages.
The UNHCR said it was in touch with Malaysian maritime authorities and was ready to provide any necessary assistance to the refugees when they arrived.
Tens of thousands of Rohingya fled by sea following an outbreak of sectarian violence in Rakhine State in 2012, some falling prey to human traffickers.
That exodus peaked in 2015, when an estimated 25,000 people fled across the Andaman Sea for Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Rights groups expect another surge in Rohingya boats sailing for Southeast Asia, even if not at the levels of the past.