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Boat people meet: Immediate help but long-term problems unsolved (UPDATED)

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Seventeen countries met in Bangkok Friday to address the boat people problem in the Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal. Immediate help was promised, but long-term proposals met resistance from Myanmar.

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In this picture taken on May 22, 2015, Rohingya women and children register at a confinement area for migrants at Bayeun, Aceh province, after more than 400 Rohingya migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh were rescued by Indonesian fishermen off the waters of the province on May 20. The widespread persecution of the impoverished community in Myanmar's Rakhine state is one of the primary causes for the current regional exodus, alongside growing numbers trying to escape poverty in neighbouring Bangladesh. AFP PHOTO / ROMEO GACAD

Saturday update

The HTMS Angthong yesterday during a drill to to provide humanitarian assistance to Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants stranded on boats in the Andaman Sea. PATIPAT JANTHONG

Summit agrees to help migrants

Critics slam refusal to use 'Rohingya' name

As expected, the international meeting in Bangkok on the boat people crisis in the Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal ended without mentioning the word Rohingya, acceding to the demands of Myanmar.

Still, the Thai hosts were able to describe the day-long talks as “very constructive”, saying all 17 countries at the meeting agreed on a statement to provide humanitarian help to 2,500 migrants believed to still be adrift at sea, as well as to the thousands who have already made it to Thai, Malaysian and Indonesian shores.

While there were pledges of immediate help for the refugees who have already left Myanmar and Bangladesh, statements on dealing with root causes were vague and left many in the international agencies attending the conference disappointed.

Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch Asia, for example, called the talks “a band aid on a gaping wound”.

“The Rohingya are not even named in the statement ... how can you talk about a people if you don’t name them?”

Anne Richard, US Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration who represented the US as an observer at the meeting, was more upbeat, however, saying the meeting was successful, with serious and fruitful discussions.

Story contains information from Bangkok Post reporters Achara Ashayagachat and Prangthong Jitcharoenkul.

Afternoon update

Our online reporters have given their story of the conference the headline "Finger-pointing, rebukes bog down migrant-crisis meet"

That seems to be an accurate description of the conference where the even word "Rohingya"was prohibited to get Myanmar to attend.

As the story points out, however, there were some positive developments at the beginning.

Htin Linn, the head of the Myanmar delegation, speaks at the "Special Meeting on Irregular Migration in the Indian Ocean" regarding the Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrant crisis at a hotel in Bangkok today. (AP photo)

Foreign Minister Tanasak Patimapragorn opened the morning session with a call to action, saying the influx of boat migrants had reached an "alarming level". Just before the lunch break, Gen Tanasak disclosed that Thailand had 600 newly arrived boat people in temporary holding areas in the South.

The deputy prime minister also announced that Thailand has approved a request to allow the US military to operate flights out of Thailand to search for migrants stuck on boats. So far, the US Navy flights have been operating out of Subang, Malaysia. Gen Tanasak said the Thailand-based missions can begin immediately.

Thailand so far has provided only humanitarian aid and dispatched a Royal Thai Navy task force to the Andaman Sea to act as a mobile operations base.

But "while we are trying to help those in need, we must stop the outflow of irregular migrants and combat transnational crime and destroy their networks," said Gen Tanasak, who also is deputy prime minister. "The root causes that motivated these people to leave must also be addressed."

And that is where proceedings quickly moved from hopeful optimism to finger-pointing. Volker Turk, the UN  Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees, said there could be no solution if root causes were not addressed.

"This will require full assumption of responsibility by Myanmar toward all its people. Granting citizenship is the ultimate goal," he said. "In the interim ... recognising that Myanmar is their own country is urgently required (as well as) access to identity documents and the removal of restrictions on basic freedoms."

Myanmar's delegate, Foreign Ministry director-general Htin Linn, shot back in a speech afterward, saying Mr Turk should ''be more informed'' and casting doubt on whether "the spirit of cooperation is prevailing in the room".

Myanmar has denied citizenship to 1.3 million Rohingyas and initially said it would not even attend the conference if the word "Rohingya" was used. It has consistently denied any persecution of the Muslim minority and rejects any accusation its treatment of the Rohingya is a root cause of the crisis.

"Finger pointing will to serve any purpose. It will take us nowhere,'' Htin Linn said.

Morning update (11:45)

Representatives pose for a group photo at the "Special Meeting on Irregular Migration in the Indian Ocean" regarding the Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrant crisis at a hotel in Bangkok, Thailand, Friday, May 29, 2015. Apart from Thai Foreign Minister Tanasak Patimapragorn, all are below the level of minister. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

The  "Special Meeting on Irregular Migration in the Indian Ocean" and thus far the many reporters from international news agencies don't seme impressed with its chances of success.

The countries attending have not sent ministers and Myanmar's delegate, according to AFP, has already rebuked the UN's refugee agency for calling on the country to recognise the Muslim Rohingya minority as citizens to stem their exodus from its shores.

On "this issue of illegal migration of boat people, you cannot single out my country," Myanmar delegation, Foreign Ministry Director-General Htin Lynn said in stern response to a UNHCR plea to address the "root causes" of the ongoing migration crisis including the statelessness issue.

'Balance' needed to solve migrant crisis

Achara Ashayagachat

Nations involved in finding solutions to the Rohingya problem are seeking a balanced approach to reduce irregular migration, the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) says.

They will address human rights issues as 17 countries convene in Bangkok Friday as part of a concerted effort to address the boat people problem in the Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal.

IOM director William Lacy said Southeast Asian migrant issues were different from those in the Mediterranean due to the mixed driving factors, but the most urgent action needed was to bring the estimated 3,900 boat people stranded at sea to dry land.

Mr Lacy said he did not know how many come from the various refugee groups identified so far. He saw Friday's meeting as a follow-up to the May 20 meeting in Malaysia's Putrajaya and expected discussions would continue after the Bangkok meeting.

Foreign Ministers from Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand held talks there to discuss ways to handle the mass influx of Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants into their territorial waters. "We are here to support countries in the region including Asean and Bangladesh as well as the Bali Process," Mr Lacy said.

He said that several aspects of the problems would be discussed at the meeting particularly "the causes driving people away from home, how to give them better jobs, safety and human rights protection and improve the work of the alliance against trafficking which has not been quite successful yet".

"We expect some kind of mechanism to keep conversation going for the benefit of migrants and the nation states balancing the conundrum of national security and individual rights," said Mr Lacy, who will represent one of the three UN agencies participating at the meeting.

A Rohingya mother from Myanmar and her daughter Asma rest at a confinement area in Langsa port, Aceh province, following the death of Shahira Bibi, Mimi's youngest daughter who was aged three when she died on May 20, after being rescued on May 15 by fishermen in the waters off Aceh having been at sea on a migrant boat. AFP PHOTO / ROMEO GACAD

The Special Meeting on Irregular Migration in the Indian Ocean will include representatives from Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Iran, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Thailand, with observers from the US, Japan and Switzerland.

International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) regional director (Asia and Oceania) Sam Zarifi said any responses that emerge from the meeting should comply with international law and standards on human rights, the treatment of refugees and migrants, and people who are in distress at sea.

Mr Zarifi said Myanmar should work to scrap laws that discriminate against minorities and actively prosecute acts of violence fuelled by discrimination as well as crimes of hate speech.

He echoed calls by other UN agencies to stop arresting and putting Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants on trial. "Thailand still views this problem as mainly one of migration and trafficking, instead of as a human rights crisis that demands a human rights-based regional response," he said.

Learn from listening

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Vocabulary:

accede (verb): to agree to a request, proposal, demand, etc. - ยินยอม, ยอมรับ

accurate : correct, exact and without any mistakes - ถูกต้อง, แม่นยำ

act : an action - การกระทำ

address : to deal with a problem - จัดการปัญหา

adrift (adv): (of a boat or someone in a boat) not tied to anything or is floating without being controlled by anyone - ล่องลอย (ไม่ได้วางสมอเรือ)

agency (noun): a government department that provides a particular service - หน่วยงานราชการ

alarming : worrying or frightening - ซึ่งน่าตกใจ

alliance : a group of people, organisations, or countries who have united to work together to achieve something - สหพันธ์

approach : a way of doing or dealing with something; a particular way of doing something or thinking about something - การจัดการกับปัญหา วิธีการทำให้ถึงจุดหมาย

approve : to give official permission - อนุมัต

arrest (verb): (of the police) to take someone to a police station because they are believed to have committed a crime - จับกุม

aspect : one part of a situation, problem, subject, etc - ด้าน,มุม

balance (noun): a stable condition/relationship between two (or more) sides - ความสมดุล, การทรงตัว

band aid (noun): material that can be stuck to the skin to protect a small wound or cut; a piece of this - ปลาสเตอร์ปิดแผล

benefit : an advantage you get from a situation; a helpful or good effect, or something intended to help - ผลประโยชน์, ข้อได้เปรียบ, ผลดี

bog down : to prevent from moving easily or making progress - ชะงัก, พบกับความยุ่งยาก

cast doubt on : to make people feel less sure about or have less trust in something or someone - ลดความเชื่อถือ, ทำให้สงสัย

cause : the person or thing that makes something happen - สาเหตุ

citizen : someone who has the right to live permanently in a particular country - พลเมือง 

citizenship : being a member of a particular country and having rights because of it - ชนชาติ, ความเป็นพลเมือง

combat (verb): to try to stop something unpleasant or harmful from happening or increasing - ต่อต้าน

community : the people living in one particular area - ชุมชน

comply with : to obey a rule or law or do what someone asks you to do - ปฏิบัติตาม

concerted effort (noun): when people or organizations work together in a determined way to achieve their goals -

conference (noun): a large official meeting, usually lasting for a few days, at which people with the same work or interests come together to discuss their views - การประชุมร่วม

confinement : when a person or animal is kept somewhere, usually by force; detention - การกักตัว

consistently  : continuously; happening again and again in the same way - อย่างต่อเนื่อง

constructive : intended to be useful or helpful - ซึ่งสร้างสรรค์

conundrum (noun): a confusing problem or question that is very difficult to solve - ปริศนา,ปัญหา

convene : to gather for a meeting - มาชุมนุมกัน

cooperation : a situation in which people or organisations work together to achieve a result that will benefit all of them - การร่วมมือกัน

crime : an illegal activity or action - อาชญากรรม

crisis : an urgent, difficult, or dangerous situation - วิกฤตการณ์

current : of the present time - ปัจจุบัน

deal with : to take action to solve a problem - รับมือกับ, จัดการกับ

delegate : a person chosen or elected by a group to speak, vote, etc. for them, especially at a meeting - ตัวแทน

delegation : a group of people chosen or elected by a group to represent them - คณะผู้แทน, คณะบุคคลที่เป็นตัวแทนของคนกลุ่มใหญ่

demand : a very firm request for something - ข้อเรียกร้อง, การเรียกร้อง

denied (verb): said that something is not true or did not happen - ปฏิเสธ

deny : to not allow someone to have or do something - ไม่ยอมรับ, ปฏิเสธ

deputy : a person whose rank is immediately below that of the leader of an organisation - รอง

disappointed : unhappy because someone or something was not as good as you hoped or expected, or because something did not happen - ผิดหวัง

disclose : to make known to the public - เปิดเผยต่อสาธารณะ

discriminate : to treat one person or group worse/better than another in an unfair way - เลือกปฏิบัติกับ

discrimination : the practice of treating someone or a particular group in society less fairly than others - การเลือกปฏิบัติ, การแบ่งแยก

dispatch (verb): to send someone or something somewhere - ส่งออกไป, ส่งคนออกไป

document : a piece of paper or a set of papers containing official information - เอกสาร

drill : an activity which practises a particular skill or procedure - การฝึกหัด

due to : because of - เนื่องจาก

echo : to express the ideas or feelings that someone else has expressed - กล่าวซ้ำ

emerge : to start to exist; to appear - เกิดขึ้น

estimated : thought to be a particular amount, size, etc. based on a guess or the best information available - ประมาณการ

exodus : a situation in which a lot of people leave a place or activity at the same time - การจากไปของผู้คนเป็นจำนวนมาก

factor : a fact or situation which influences the result of something - ปัจจัย

finger-pointing (noun): specifically blaming someone for something bad, as if you were pointing your finger at the person accusing them of something. - การกล่าวหา, การประณาม

foreign minister : the minister in charge of maintaining relations with other countries and looking after the interests of its citizens living abroad who heads the Foreign Ministry or - รัฐมนตรีว่าการต่างประเทศ

fruitful : producing many useful results - ให้ผลดี, ได้ผลสำเร็จ

fuel : to cause something, usually bad, to happen; to increase something; to make something stronger - ก่อให้เกิด, ทำให้รุนแรงขึ้น

gaping (adj): wide open; large, especially of a hole or area of space - กว้างใหญ่, เหวอะ

grant : to officially give something - ให้

handle : to take action in order to deal with a difficult situation - ดูแล, จัดการ

hate (noun): disliking someone/something very much - ความเกลียด

host : a country, city, group, person, etc. which provides the space and other things necessary for a special event - เจ้าภาพ

human rights : the basic rights which it is generally considered all people should have, such as justice and the freedom to say what you think - สิทธิมนุษยชน

humanitarian : relating to efforts to help people who are living in very bad conditions and are suffering because of a war, flood, earthquake etc - มีมนุษยธรรม

identified (verb): named, searched for a discovered - ระบุ

identity : who or what somebody/something is - ชื่อ เอกลักษณ์

immediately (adv): happening right after something else with no delay; right away - ทันที

impoverished : very poor - ยากจน

impressed : admiring someone or something very much because of an unusually good quality or achievement - ประทับใจ

improve : to make better - ทำให้ดีขึ้น

in distress : having serious problems; in danger -

individual : a person considered separately rather than as part of a group - บุคคล

influx : a large number of people or things coming in to a place - การหลั่งไหล การไหลบ่า  (เข้าไปยังที่ใดที่หนึ่ง)

initially : at first - ในระยะต้น 

irregular : not according to what is expected - ผิดปกติ

issue : a problem that needs to be considered - ประเด็น

level : a position or rank in a scale of size or importance - ระดับ

mass : a large amount of something - ปริมาณมาก

mechanism : a method or a system for achieving something - กลไก, วิธีการทำงาน, วิธีการ

migrant : someone who travels to another place or country in order to find work (an immigrant is someone who comes to live in a country from another country) - ผู้อพยพ, คนงานต่างถิ่น

minister : a member of the cabinet, the group of government ministers who make and approve government policy - รัฐมนตรี

minority : of a part of a population that is different in race, religion or culture form most of the population - ชนกลุ่มน้อย

mission : an important job, especially a military one, that someone is sent somewhere to do - ภาระกิจ, หน้าที่, งาน

mixed : a combination or mixture of different things - ผสม

motivate : to cause to (want to) do something - ทำให้มีแรงจูงใจ

national security : the protection or the safety of a country’s secrets and its citizens - การรักษาความมั่นคงแห่ง่ชาติ

neighbouring : located or living near or next to a place or person - ติดกัน, ที่อยู่ใกล้เคียง, ที่ตั้งอยู่ใกล้เคียง

network : a large system of connected parts, organisations, people, etc. - เครือข่าย

observer : a person who watches and analyses a situation - ผู้สังเกตการณ์

ongoing : continuing - อย่างต่อเนื่อง

optimism : a tendency to be hopeful and to expect that good things will probably happen - การมองในแง่ดี,ลัทธิความเบิกบานใจ

outflow (noun): the movement of a large amount of money, liquid, people, etc. out of a place - การไหลออกมา

particularly : especially, or more than usual - โดยเฉพาะ

persecution : unfair or cruel treatment over a long period of time because of race, religion, or political beliefs - การกลั่นแกล้ง, การข่มเหง, การข่มเหงรังแก

plea : an urgent and emotional request - คำร้อง, คำขอ, คำขอร้อง, คำวิงวอน

pledge : a serious promise - คำมั่้นสัญญา

positive : in a good way - ในทางบวก

poverty : the condition of being extremely poor - ความจน

prevail : to be the strongest influence or element in a situation - เป็นจริง, มีอำนาจเหนือกว่า

primary : main; most important; basic - อันดับแรก

proceedings : the actions taken, usually in court, to settle a legal matter - การดำเนินการ

process : a series of actions that you take in order to achieve a result - แนวทางปฏิบัติ, กระบวน, วิธีการ

prohibit : to not allow; to ban - ห้าม

prosecute : to officially accuse someone of a crime and ask a court of law to judge them - ดำเนินคดี

protection : the act of protecting somebody/something; the state of being protected - การอารักขา, การปกป้อง

provide assistance : to give help to someone -

rebuke : telling someone that they have behaved badly - การตำหนิ, การต่อว่า,การประณาม

recognise (verb): to officially agree that a country, group or organisation exists - เป็นที่ยอมรับโดยทั่วกัน

reduce : to make something smaller or less in amount, size, importance etc - ลดลง

refugee : someone who leaves their country, especially during a war or other threatening event - ผู้ลี้ภัย

refusal : an act of saying or showing that you will not do, give or accept something - คำปฏิเสธ, การปฏิเสธ

regional : of or relating to a region - เกี่ยวกับภูมิภาค

register : to put your name and other information on an official list in order to be allowed to do something, e.g., vote, study, stay in a hotel etc - ลงทะเบียน

represent : to act, speak or be present officially for another person or people - เป็นตัวแทน

representative : someone who has been chosen or elected by a person or group to vote, give opinions, or make decisions for them - ผู้แทน

rescue : to save a person or animal from a dangerous or unpleasant situation - ช่วยชีวิต

response : a reaction to something that has happened or been said - การตอบสนอง

responsibility : a duty; a duty to deal with or take care of somebody/something, so that you may be blamed if something goes wrong - ความรับผิดชอบ

restriction : a rule, action or situation that limits or controls someone or something - การจำกัด, การควบคุม

rights (noun): the basic rights which it is generally considered all people (or animals) should have, such as justice, freedom and the freedom to say what you think - สิทธิ

root : a basic cause or idea - รากฐาน, แก่นแท้, ต้นตอ

scrap : to get rid of; to stop using or accepting - เลิก, ทิ้ง

seek : to try to obtain or achieve something - พยายามได้มา

session : a formal meeting - การชุมนุม ประชุม

shore : the land along the edge of the sea or ocean, a lake or another large area of water - ชายฝั่ง

single out : to choose one person, organisation, etc. from a group for special attention - เลือกเฉพาะ, เลือกจากกลุ่ม

slam : to strongly criticise someone or something - วิพากษ์วิจารณ์อย่างรุนแรง

solution (noun): one way to solve a problem - วิธีแก้ปัญหา

solve (verb): to successfully deal with a problem or difficult situation; to find out who is responsible for a crime - แก้ปัญหา, คลี่คลาย, หาคำตอบ

standards : rules for behaving which should be obeyed - มาตรฐาน, บรรทัดฐาน, กฎเกณฑ์, กรอบ

stateless : not having citizenship in any country - ไร้สัญชาติ

stem : to stop something from increasing or spreading - หยุดยั้ง,ยับยั้ง,สกัด

stern : serious and severe - กวดขัน, พิถีพิถัน, เข้มงวด

stranded : left somewhere with no way of going anywhere else - ปล่อยเกาะ ถูกทิ้งไว้

stuck : unable to move, or fixed in a particular position or place - ติด

summit : a meeting or a series of meetings between leaders of two or more countries - การประชุมสุดยอด

temporary : for a limited time; not permanent - ชั่วคราว

territorial waters : the parts of a sea or an ocean which are near a country's coast and are legally under its control - เขตน่านน้ำของแต่ละประเทศ

thus far : up until this time - จนถึงทุกวันนี้

trafficking : dealing in illegal goods, like drugs, weapons or in illegally moving humans or animals from one place to another - การค้าสิ่งที่ผิดกฎหมาย

transnational : involving more than one country; present in more than one country - ข้ามชาติ

treatment : a way of behaving towards or dealing with a person or thing - การปฏิบัติ

trial : the process of examining a case in a court of law and deciding whether someone has or has not committed a crime - การพิจารณาคดี

upbeat : happy and positive because you are confident that you will get what you want - มีความหวัง

urgent : of something you need to deal with immediately - เร่งด่วน

vague : not complete, accurate or fully formed - อย่างไม่ชัดเจน

violence : physical force with the deliberate intention of causing damage to property or injury or death to people - ความรุนแรง, การใช้กำลังทำลาย

widespread : happening or existing in many places, or affecting many people - อย่างแพร่หลาย

wound : an injury in which your skin or flesh is damaged - บาดแผล

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