Thailand plans 'transit area' for Rohingya migrants

Thailand plans 'transit area' for Rohingya migrants

Rohingya migrant women holding children stand on a boat drifting in Thai waters off Koh Lipe in southern Thailand. (AFP Photo)
Rohingya migrant women holding children stand on a boat drifting in Thai waters off Koh Lipe in southern Thailand. (AFP Photo)

Thailand is preparing to open a "transit area" where Rohingya migrants will be provided with humanitarian assistance, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said on Monday.

Gen Prawit, who is also defence minister, said this before leaving for the 3rd Naval Area Command in Phuket.  He was accompanied by Adm Kraisorn Chansuvanich, the navy chief, and Pol Gen Somyot Poompanmuang, the national police chief.

In Phuket, he would follow up the work of the navy and Royal Thai Police Office to find out what they had done to cope with problems derived from the exodus of  Rohingya from Myanmar, he said. 

Gen Prawit said the navy had concentrated on humanitarian assistance in line with a request from the United Nations.

He said an area would be opened to take care of Rohingya migrants in transit.  It would not be an area where the illegal migrants would be confined or held under control.  It would be a transit area only, where they would get humanitarian aid, he said.

Any further action to be taken with the Rohingya migrants would be raised for discussion with all concerned, Gen Prawit said.

The Foreign Ministry has invited countries of origin, transit and destination and relevant agencies  for talks on May 29 to find a definite way of handling the problem.

"Everything will be based on international principles because Rohingya are human beings," Gen Prawit said.

Asked whether he was concerned the transit area may draw more Rohingya to the country, Gen Prawit said:  "Don't think too much.  We will do everything the Rohingya need.  We have done this in the past, not only with the Rohingya but also with Lao and Cambodian migrants."

He said it was yet to be decided where the transit area would be set up.  The matter would be discussed with several agencies.  For any area selected, there must be effective measures to prevent local residents from being affected, Gen Prawit added.

Asked about the possibility Myanmar might  boycott the May 29 meeting, Gen Prawit said this was for Myanmar to decide.

Asked whether setting up of a transit area, as suggested by the United States, would help improve Thailand's poor position on Washington's human trafficking list, Gen Prawit said that was for the US to decide.

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