Myanmar 'unlikely to attend' migrant crisis meeting: president's office

Myanmar 'unlikely to attend' migrant crisis meeting: president's office
A group of rescued migrants mostly Rohingya from Myanmar and Bangladesh gathered on arrival at the new confinement area in the fishing town of Kuala Langsa in Aceh province

YANGON - Myanmar may snub a regional meeting  hosted by Thailand later this month aimed at easing the current Bay of Bengal  migrant crisis, the president's office said Friday.

Hundreds of boatpeople have arrived on Thai, Malaysian and Indonesian soil  since May 1, when the discovery of mass graves believed to belong to  Bangladeshi and Myanmar migrants in southern Thailand prompted a crackdown on  trafficking and smugglers responded by abandoning their human cargo.

Thai authorities, who have been accused of turning a blind eye -- and also  complicity in -- the trade, called a May 29 regional meeting in Bangkok to  address the "root causes" of the flow of migrants.

Many of those found on boats are Rohingya Muslims from poverty-stricken  western Myanmar.

On Friday it accused Thailand of using the regional summit to divert  attention from its own issues with people smuggling.

"We are unlikely to attend... we do not accept it if they (Thailand) are  inviting us just to ease the pressure they are facing," presidential office  director Zaw Htay told AFP.

"The root cause (of the crisis) is increasing human trafficking. The  problem of the migrant graves is not a Myanmar problem, it's because of the  weakness of human trafficking prevention and the rule of law in Thailand," he  added.

The one-day meeting in Bangkok will include officials from 15 countries  including Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Myanmar as well as Australia and the  United States.

The UN says more than 25,000 people, including many Rohingya but also  economic migrants from Bangladesh, have made the journey south from the Bay of  Bengal between January and March this year.

In recent years, sectarian violence and a web of discriminatory laws  against the Rohingya in Buddhist-majority Myanmar have sparked the region's  largest exodus of boatpeople since the Vietnam War.

More than 1.3 million Rohingya, a stateless people viewed by the United  Nations as one of the world's most persecuted minorities, live in Myanmar's  western Rakhine State.

But Myanmar denies them citizenship and even refuses to recognise the  Rohingya as an ethnic group, instead labelling them "Bengalis", a code for  outsiders.

Earlier this week Zaw Htay said the heart of the migrant crisis was in  Bangladesh -- a thinly veiled reference to the perceived roots of the Rohingya.

Deadly communal violence between local Buddhists and Muslim Rohingya in  impoverished Rakhine in 2012 left some 200 dead and tens of thousands -- mainly  Rohingya -- trapped in squalid camps, catalysing the latest exodus by sea.

The Rohingya trace their ancestry in Myanmar back generations yet they  remain blotted out from the nation's official narrative.

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