Myanmar says 'ready to provide humanitarian help to boat migrants'

Myanmar says 'ready to provide humanitarian help to boat migrants'
Malaysia's Foreign Minister Anifah Aman (C) shakes hands with Thai Foreign Minister Tanasak Patimapragorn (L) and their Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi (R) prior to the start of a meeting on the issue of irregular movement of people in Southeast Asia, at the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Putrajaya on May 20,2015.

YANGON - Myanmar said Wednesday it was "ready to provide humanitarian assistance" to boatpeople, in its most conciliatory comments yet as several Southeast Asian neighbours meet to discuss the boat crisis gripping the region.

A foreign ministry statement in state media said Myanmar "shares concerns" of the international community and is "ready to provide humanitarian assistance to anyone who suffered in the sea", after the UN warned thousands of migrants -- including from the stateless Rohingya minority -- were stranded off its coast.

Myanmar's treatment of the impoverished and marginalised Muslim Rohingya community is widely seen as one of the root causes of the surge in migrants making the perilous journey across the Bay of Bengal.

Nearly 3,000 Rohingya from Myanmar and Bangladeshi migrants have made it ashore in Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia in recent days after being abandoned by smugglers in open waters.

Thousands more victims are believed to be stranded at sea with scant food or water.

On Tuesday the United Nations' refugee agency the UNHCR warned that some 2,000 people, including women and children, have been stranded in the sea off Myanmar's western Rakhine state coast for more than 40 days, with reports of violence, hunger and dehydration.

The boats are believed to be packed with Rohingya and Bangladeshis who have yet to sail southwards through the Andaman Sea because of a crackdown on the lucrative people smuggling trade that has seen Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia refuse to accept the vessels.

The United Nations and United States have led international calls for Southeast Asian nations to open their ports to the boats rather than just giving food and water and pushing them back to sea.

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