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Image: Getty Images/Afp/C. Archambault

Malaysia launches talks to tacke migrant crisis

May 17, 2015

Malaysia has launched high-level talks to tackle the growing migrant crisis in Southeast Asia. But as some ASEAN countries put the blame on Myanmar, the government says it is not their problem.


Malaysia said on Sunday that Foreign Minister Anifah Aman will meet with his Indonesian and Thai counterparts to discuss the growing influx of boat people into their countries' territorial waters.

The talks come amid a growing migrant crisis in which thousands of Myanmar's ethnic Rohingya minority and economic migrants have been stranded at sea. Malaysian, Indonesian, and Thai officials have blamed Myanmar for not tackling the issue.

However, Myanmar's government has condemned the statements and pushed the blame to its neighbors.

"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," director of the office of Myanmar's president, Major Zaw Htay, said on Saturday.

Htay put the blame on Myanmar's neighbors, saying "it's sad that these people are being pushed out to sea by some countries."

The stateless Rohingya minorities face legal difficulties in Myanmar due to their status as illegal immigrants. They have also been the target of violence from the country's Buddhist monks.

"We will not accept the allegations by some that Myanmar is the source of the problem," Htay added.

The migrant crisis is set to top the agenda of a refugee conference hosted by Thailand on May 29. However, Myanmar's government has cast doubt on its attendance.

In limbo

A boat filled with approximately 300 of Myanmar's ethnic Rohingya minority has been left stranded at sea after being escorted out of Thailand's territorial by naval vessels.

Meanwhile, 3,000 economic migrants and Rohingya Muslims have landed on the shores of Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia in recent days, while thousands continue to drift at sea.

The growing migrant crisis has raised concerns among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The UN has warned against "floating coffins" while Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak called the crisis a "humanitarian catastrophe."

ls/bw (AP, AFP)

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