UN chief urges Thai PM to treat boat people with dignity

UN chief urges Thai PM to treat boat people with dignity

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged the government yesterday to offer proper treatment to boat people, saying they deserved "human dignity and basic rights", while also supporting Thailand's move to hold an international forum late this month to try to resolve the crisis.

UN chief Ban made a phone call to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday morning to voice concerns over the plight of Rohingya from Myanmar and migrants from Bangladesh, Deputy Army spokesman Wirachon Sukhonthap-atiphak said.

The UN estimates that more than 25,000 migrants have got into boats in the Bay of Bengal to seek work and better lives in Southeast Asia since last October.

Some have already managed to land while thousands are still afloat at sea, as no country in the region wants to welcome them.

On Friday, Ban urged governments in Southeast Asia to facilitate timely disembarkation and keep their borders and ports open, so as to help vulnerable people.

Prime Minister Prayut told the UN chief during their phone conversation his government was closely monitoring the migrant crisis and providing necessary humanitarian assistance to them, the spokesman said.

"Thai officials found the latest group last week and gave assistance to them by fixing their boat engine, giving fuel, food, water and medicine, as they wanted to go to another country," Wirachon said.

Authorities would not allow them to land on Thai shores, as officials said the migrants wanted to go to another country.

Thailand is set to host a special meeting on Irregular Migration in the Indian Ocean on May 29 in Bangkok with participants from 15 affected nations such as Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Bangladesh.

Prayut told Ban that representatives of these countries and international organisations will exchange views and seek solutions to solve the problem constructively, Wirachon said.

The forum, as Prayut said, would show ASEAN unity to take responsibility for the fate of human beings. However, Myanmar, a member of ASEAN, said on Friday it was unlikely to attend the forum.

Deputy spokesman for the PM's Office Maj-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd has said Thailand is willing to co-operate with other nations to solve the issue of irregular migration by Rohingya refugees.

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