Thailand finds migrant boat, declines permission to land

Thailand finds migrant boat, declines permission to land
A boat carrying Rohingya migrants is pictured off the coast of Thailand in the Andaman Sea on May 14, 2015.

BANGKOK - Thailand has found a boat drifting off its west coast carrying 300 migrants but has refused to grant it permission to land, a senior police officer said on Thursday.

"We declined them entry to the country but we gave them food and water to adhere to our human rights obligations," regional police official Major General Puthichart Ekachant told Reuters.

The boat was found 17 km (10 miles) off the coast of the southern island of Koh Lipe, he said.

Migrants on the boat did not want to land in Thailand but instead wanted to go to Malaysia or Indonesia, said Somchai Na Bangchang, a rear admiral in the Royal Thai Navy.

"We did not push back the boat or kick them out," Somchai said.

Several thousand migrants have been abandoned at sea by smugglers following a Thai crackdown on human trafficking. The UN refugee agency UNHCR has warned the situation could develop into a "massive humanitarian crisis".

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