BANGKOK - A boat carrying dozens of Rohingya refugees trying to reach Malaysia briefly stopped on a Thai island, an official said Sunday, as fears grow about overcrowded camps for the stateless minority fleeing violence in Myanmar.

Nearly 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have sought shelter in southern Bangladesh since Myanmar launched a brutal crackdown on insurgents in August that the US and UN have called ethnic cleansing.

But the refugees have arrived to find cramped settlements and often squalid conditions in Cox's Bazar, where hundreds of thousands who fled previous waves of persecution are already living. An agreement to repatriate Rohingya from Bangladesh to Myanmar's Rakhine state has yet to see a single refugee returned. 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 Rohingya boat arrived off Thailand's western coast in Krabi province early Sunday due to bad weather. Images showed the passengers being interviewed on shore and then getting back into the boat before departing. Krabi governor Kitibodee Pravitra confirmed that the people travelling on the boat were Rohingya but did not know where they had come from.

"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. "They want to go to Malaysia."

Bangladesh begins relocating Rohingya

Bangladesh has begun relocating 100,000 Rohingya refugees to safer ground before the monsoon season for fear of deadly landslides and floods in the congested camps, an official said Sunday. The UN says about 150,000 refugees in Bangladesh's southeast -- where nearly one million Rohingya in total live in shanties on hillsides -- are extremely vulnerable to disease and disaster this rainy season. Humanitarian groups have been racing to reinforce the basic shelters erected hastily by the Rohingya as they fled across the border.