Rohingya migrants attempting the boat routes south have been a rare sighting since Thai authorities clamped down on regional trafficking networks in 2015, leaving thousands of migrants abandoned in open waters or jungle camps.
The Bangladeshi government has made a decision to relocate about 100,000 Rohingya Muslims before the rainy season begins in June.
The UNHCR estimated that more than 670,000 refugees have fled to Bangladesh since August previous year to escape a campaign of killings, arson and rape targeted at the predominantly Muslim Rohingya community in Myanmar's Rakhine State. It had since been escorted to the peninsula and its occupants handed over to immigration authorities for processing. 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.
"Their boat is a small fishing boat with partial cover", he said.
The U.N. says about 150,000 refugees in Bangladesh's southeast - where almost one million Rohingya in total live in shanties on hillsides - are extremely vulnerable to disease and disaster this rainy season.
"The initial report said they were docking near Koh Lanta this morning to avoid the storm", he said, referring to an island popular with tourists.
A displaced Rohingya man who lives near Sittwe confirmed Lewa's account, saying there had been only three boats that he knew of that had left Sittwe since December, one going to Bangladesh and the second seemingly having disappeared.
The vessel carrying 56 people was intercepted by Malaysian maritime authorities near the northwestern island of Langkawi, said navy chief Tan Sri Ahmad Kamarulzaman Ahmad Badaruddin.
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"All 56 passengers, mostly children and women, are safe but exhausted and hungry", Badaruddin said.
He said local villagers donated food to the Rohingya and that they were "happy" with the help.
Thailand has an official policy of pushing back boat people from its shores, so most Rohingya prefer to head to Malaysia, whose dominant Malay Muslim population makes it a more sympathetic destination.
Many Rohingya refugees are living in tents set up on steep slopes or low ground.
Atrocities including arson, torture, gang rape, murder and massacres have been reported by global organisations and the media, as most of Rakhine's Rohingya population was forced from the state.
The UN is also calling for global support.
"The world's focus in on Rakhine right now, but we also need to peacefully develop the country".