Migrants adrift in sea as Thailand, Malaysia turn them away

Thousands of migrants, mostly Rohingya Muslims fleeing Myanmar and Bangladesh, are turned away by South Asian countries

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

The Thai navy towed another boat full of migrants out to sea towards Indonesia, second in 24 hours, as an estimated 6,000 Rohingya Muslims and Bangladeshis are stranded at sea and have nowhere to go.

The towing came just after Thai authorities announced that they found more than 100 migrants on a southern island despite UN and US calls for a coordinated rescue.

The migrant crisis in Andaman Sea is quickly turning to a humanitarian disaster, as abandoned boats crammed with thirsty and sick people, including women and children, are turned away by Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia.

About 2,500 migrants have landed in Indonesia and Malaysia over the past week, but many boats have been pushed back by navy ships.

Thailand found more than 100 people on Friday, provincial governor Prayoon Rattanasenee told Reuters, most of them women and children.

The International Organization for Migration accuses the South Asian nations of playing "maritime ping-pong" with the migrants. The United Nations and the US urges them to rescue these "vulnerable people who are in need," but they say they do not have enough resources.

Myanmar's Rohingya Muslims are denied citizenship despite having lived there for generations and live in apartheid-like conditions. They are persecuted in the Buddhist country, and international agencies say the crisis will continue until Myanmar changes its policies toward Rohingya Muslims.

But that is unlikely to happen.

Myanmar has already refused to attend planned regional talks in Thailand to resolve the crisis for the word "Rohingya."

"If they use the term "Rohingya" we won't take part in it since we don't recognise this term. The Myanmar government has been protesting against the use of it all along" Zaw Htay, a senior official from the president's office, said in an emailed response to questions from Reuters.

TRTWorld and agencies