A dead body floats in the sea near the part of Pauktaw township that was burned in recent violence
Rohingya refugees drowned in October after they fled violence in western Rakhine. (Reuters)

As many as 100 Rohingya refugees may have drowned after a boat sailing from Myanmar to Malaysia sank off the coast of Bangladesh.

The boat, which was travelling to Malaysia illegally, was carrying 110 passengers when it sank today. The 11 people who have been rescued are now being kept in custody.

Lieutenant colonel Zahid Hasan, Bangladesh Border Guard commander, said the boat went down 15km from the Cox's Bazaar coastal district.

He told AFP: "We have rescued 11 survivors with the help of local fishermen and a search and rescue operation is under way. The boat was heading to Malaysia illegally."

Lieutenant Badruddoza, a commander for the coastguard, said the search and rescue operation is being undertaken with the Bangladesh navy.

This is the second time a boat carrying refugees fleeing Myanmar has sunk in less than two weeks.

Over 100 Muslim Rohingya refugees may have drowned after their boat sank in the Bay of Bengal on 28 October. Of the 135 passengers, only a handful survived.

One of the six survivors told Gulf News that 122 people were still missing.

"The overloaded boat capsized apparently after being hit by an undersea rock causing a crack on its bottom, when its engine also went out of order," Hassan said.

"The navy or coastguards were yet to find anybody in the sea though some fishermen said they saw several bodies were floating on the deep sea."

One of the survivors, Abu Bakar, told AFP that he paid 20,000 taka (£156) for the journey. He said he and the other survivors swam for around 20 hours before they were rescued.

"Everyone was crying and praying to Allah as the boat was bobbing heavily in the water and it sank quickly." Bakar said.

"There was no sign of the boat [after it sank] and I can't say what happened to the other passengers.

"After sunrise we tried to work out where the Bangladesh coast was and started to swim eastwards. We swam at least 20 hours - those hours were the longest in my life.

"It was after midnight and I was hungry, thirsty, totally exhausted and was thinking that my life was at an end, when a Bangladeshi fishing boat rescued us."

Another survivor told journalists that brokers had collected money from the passengers promising to take them to Malaysia. They said the passengers were told they would be moved to a bigger ship mid-sea.

Earlier, boatloads of Muslim Rohingya had fled following violence in western Rakhine. Nine boats were not accounted for after the exodus and some of the refugees drowned trying to reach the safety of islands and coastal villages.

Tens of thousands of Muslim Rohingya have fled their homes over the past decade to escape persecution from Buddhists in Myanmar, which believes them to be illegally living in the predominately Buddhist country.

As many as 300,000 have already fled to Bangladesh to escape attacks.

Earlier this year, Bangladesh prevented three charities from giving aid to Rohingya refugees who entered the country as they were "encouraging an influx of Rohingya refugees", local administrator Joynul Bari said.

The Myanmar government believes the Rohingya to be illegal immigrants. Thein Sein, Myanmar president, said the best way to stop the violence towards Rohingya would be to send the entire population of 800,000 people to another country.

The UN says the Rohingya is the most persecuted minority in the world.