Thailand hopeful about Rohingya meeting

Thailand hopeful about Rohingya meeting

Rohingya migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh look on as they were detained at the immigration office in Phangnga province on Friday. (EPA photo)
Rohingya migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh look on as they were detained at the immigration office in Phangnga province on Friday. (EPA photo)

The host Thailand has pinned hopes on a regional meeting to come up with measures to end the influx of Rohingya and Bangladeshi boat people, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said on Friday.

Gen Prayut skipped political talks in his weekly programme, Returning Happiness to Thai People, for the first time since its inception after the coup in May last year, and focused on the pressing issue of migrant smuggling.

With hundreds of Rohingya migrants found inland and off its shorelines, Thailand decided to organise a meeting in Bangkok on May 29 and the prime minister expected senior officials would not come out of the meeting room empty-handed.

"We need to come up with a solution that receives everyone's consideration,'' he said. ''I want other countries to understand us."

He reiterated the Thai position that no refugee camps would be set up for the boat people. All will stay in temporary centres to be built or in existing immigration offices. They will be sent home after going through the immigration process.

"We don't want to set up more refugee camps or shelters. If we must, they will only be to keep them in custody as illegal migrants.

"They will be held until we can send them home."

The Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that the Special Meeting on Irregular Migration in the Indian Ocean will bring together senior officials from 15 countries, including Myanmar and Bangladesh, and international organisations to find measures to stamp out the problem.

But Myanmar said on Friday that it could opt out of the talks.

Security authorities have said most of the Rohingya migrants arrested in Thailand and on boats in the Andaman Sea started their journey for a better life overseas from Rakhine state in Myanmar and neighbouring Bangladesh. Their main destinations are Malaysia and Indonesia, the two major Muslim countries in the region.

Gen Prayut said the end of the migration was impossible without cooperation from their home and destination countries. ''We need to solve the problem at the upstream and downstream levels,'' he said.

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