South-East Asian Migrant Crisis

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

May 18, 2015

Southeast Asia migrants stranded at sea. Photo by United Nations News Centre

Southeast Asia migrants stranded at sea. Photo by United Nations News Centre

 Thousands of migrants from Bangladeshi and Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar Myanmar are still stranded at sea in south-east Asia in desperate need of food and water.

 
Like Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, the Philippines will push back to sea undocumented Asian “boat people” despite a United Nations appeal to Southeast Asian countries to open their ports to the migrants from impoverished Myanmar and Bangladesh. 
 
Earlier, United Nations has called on Southeast Asian nations not to push back the boatloads of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar and Bangladeshis - men, women and children who fled persecution and poverty at home, and now face sickness and starvation at sea.
 
Many of Asian migrants abandoned at sea by smugglers hungry and sick, were adrift in Southeast Asian seas in boats, local reports say.
 
Malaysian vessels on Saturday intercepted a boat crammed with migrants after the Thai navy towed it away from Thailand, the latest of a number of vessels pushed back to sea by governments who have ignored a UN call for an immediate rescue, says a report from AFP.
 
Thousands of people are adrift in the Andaman Sea after smugglers abandoned their vessels following a Thai crackdown on human trafficking. Many of the migrants are thirsty and sick.  Around 100 people have died.
 
Malaysia pressed Myanmar to engage in talks on Southeast Asia’s boat-people influx, warning it may otherwise call an emergency meeting on the unfolding humanitarian crisis. 
 
“If necessary, we will call for an emergency (regional) meeting,” Foreign Minister Anifah Aman was quoted as saying by the state-run Bernama news agency. 
 
But Myanma has refused to shoulder the blame for an escalating humanitarian crisis and cast doubts on whether it will attend a meeting to be hosted by Thailand later this month aimed at easing an emergency that has left boatloads of refugees stranded at sea.
 
“We are not ignoring the migrant problem, but our leaders will decide whether to attend the meeting based on what is going to be discussed,” said Major Zaw Htay, director of the office of Myanmar’s president. “We will not accept the allegations by some that Myanmar is the source of the problem.”
 
Malaysia will hold talks with Indonesia and Thailand this week as it seeks a solution to the crisis in the three countries' shared maritime border, where thousands of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar as well as Bangladeshis are languishing in boats out at sea.  
 
Meanwhile, Putrajaya’s refusal to accept Rohingya refugees now unlike Bosnian Muslim or Palestinian asylum seekers then is likely because of the former’s close proximity to Malaysia and the huge numbers fleeing Myanmar, analysts said.
 
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said in a statement on May 8 that some 25,000 Rohingya and Bangladeshis boarded smugglers’ boats between January and March this year, almost double the number over the same period last year.  
 
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