Several thousand Rohingya people –human cargo– trapped on boats abandoned by smugglers at sea with little food or water….They need help. Photo by Hiekal Rosli
By P Prem Kumar
Malaysia’s foreign minister will meet his counterpart from Bangladesh Sunday to discuss the on-going humanitarian crisis occurring off Southeast Asian shores.
Datuk Seri Anifah Aman has said that the meeting would discuss among other issues, matters related to the surge in illegal Bangladeshi and Muslim Rohingya boat people traveling to the region.
“It is one of the topics and a very important issue in the agenda,” he told reporters.
Sunday’s meeting with Bangladeshi Foreign Minister A.H. Mahmood Ali is scheduled to take place in Kota Kinabalu in the state of Sabah on Borneo Island.
Since Thailand launched a crackdown on human trafficking in its southern region May 1, boatloads of Bangladeshi and Rohingya migrants have been turning up on Malaysian and Indonesian shores.
All three countries have since announced plans to turn the vessels back, unless they are unseaworthy and sinking. Thailand has since reneged, however, saying it may let smaller boats in.
On Saturday, Thai News Agency (TNA) quoted Lieutenant General Prakarn Cholayuth as saying that the Thailand and Malaysia had agreed to conduct joint patrols on the country’s shared border in more locations.
The report said that the decision was taken at a high-level committee between the two countries on Friday.
Inter-governmental agency the International Organization for Migration has estimated that 8,000 migrants being smuggled from either western Myanmar or Bangladesh are currently on boats in the Andaman Sea and Malacca Straits.
The deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch has accused Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia of playing games with the boats and putting the lives of those on board at risk.
Phil Robertson urged the countries’ navies to “stop playing a three-way game of human ping pong,” as the world would judge how they treated “these most vulnerable men, women and children.”
On Monday, over 1,000 Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants were reported to have landed illegally on the Malaysian island of Langkawi.
Indonesia is reported to be sheltering around 1486 boat people.
With the situation showing no signs of improving, Bangkok has called on international organizations to pressure Myanmar – where many of the Muslim migrants on board the boats originate – after it threatened to boycott a May 29 regional meeting aimed at solving the crisis.
Myanmar has said it will not attend the meeting if the word “Rohingya” is mentioned on the invitation
Myanmar refuses to identify the Muslims who live in Western Rakhine state as “Rohingya,” preferring to use the term Bengali which suggests they are migrants from Bangladesh. (Anadolu Ajansi)