Thailand hosts migrant crisis talks

Regional migrant crisis meeting with the attendance of US, ASEAN Countries and international organisations held in Bangkok

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Representatives from 17 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) along with the US, Switzerland and International bodies gathered in Bangkok on Friday to discuss how to tackle the ongoing migrant crisis in the Andaman sea.  

Thailand Foreign Minister Tanasak Patimaprakorn said illegal migration has reached an “alarming level,” saying the problems are rooted in Myanmar.

"No country can solve this problem alone," said Patimaprakorn at the meeting.   

Asian nations are trying to tackle the migrant crisis after the Thai crackdown on human trafficking gangs earlier this month. More than 3,000 refugees who fled from Bangladesh and Myanmar landed in Indonesia and Malaysia.

Both countries are struggling to manage the crisis and seek an international solution. According to the relief agencies, about 2,600 boat people still stranded at the sea.

Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar are fleeing due to the apartheid-like conditions they suffer in the country. Buddhist extremists persecute them and the country denies them basic rights and citizenship.

“We are trying to help those in need, we must stop the outflow of irregular migrants and combat transnational crime and destroy their networks," Tanasak said.

"The root causes that motivated these people to leave must also be addressed," he added.

Volker Turk, assistant high commissioner for protection at the UN Refugee Agency said Myanmar has to take responsibility for its citizens and grant them citizenship, referring specifically to the Rohingya minority.

Myanmar's foreign ministry chief Htin Lynn has said that his country opens its doors for any call for cooperation to tackle human trafficking but it is not acceptable to claim that the migrant crisis is only his country’s fault.

"This issue of illegal migration of boat people, you cannot single out my country, finger-pointing will not serve any purpose. It will take us nowhere," he said in a response to Turk’s claims.

At the end of the meeting Myanmar agreed to a plan tackling the root causes of the migrant crisis, a Thai Foreign Ministry official said.

At the end of the plan was a paragraph that detailing recommendations on how to halt root causes migrant crisis, including "promoting full respect for human rights” and “investing in economic development.”

"Myanmar agreed to this paper," Norachit Sinhaseni, secretary of the Thailand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told reporters.

During the meeting Thailand Foreign Minister also proposed a three step- road map to halt the crisis in Andaman Sea. He suggested as a first step providing humanitarian assistance and then battling with human trafficking in the region and finally discussing the root causes.

The US stressed at the meeting the necessity to urgently rescue thousands of desperate migrants stranded in Southeast Asian seas.  

"We have to save lives urgently," US Assistant Secretary of State Anne Richard told reporters while she was walking to the meeting.

Many countries aren’t represented at the ministerial-level and attendees from Myanmar, Indonesia and Malaysia who are struggling from the crisis didn’t send their representatives to the meeting, according to the Thai Foreign Ministry.

During the meeting Thailand also announced that it has given permission to the US to fly trailer aircraft over the Thai airspace to help find boats stuck at sea.

"Yes, we are permitting it, it is starting today," Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister General Tanasak Patimapragorn told Reuters.

The Malaysian Foreign Ministry on Monday invited the leaders of Indonesia, Thailand and Myanmar to hold an urgent meeting to discuss the migrant crisis.   

"Malaysia is prepared to host,” said an official from the ministry.  

When the meeting date was asked, the official answered that "It will take time to put together, and we don't know yet."

TRTWorld and agencies