Malaysia seeks solution with neighbours

Malaysia seeks solution with neighbours

Malaysia said yesterday that its foreign minister would meet his Indonesian and Thai counterparts to discuss the surge in boat people from Bangladesh and Myanmar to South-east Asia.

Foreign Minister Anifah Aman will meet Indonesia's Retno Marsudi in the Malaysian city of Kota Kinabalu today, a government official said.

That would be followed by separate talks between Mr Anifah and Thai Foreign Minister Tanasak Patimapragorn later in the week, "probably on Wednesday".

"As ASEAN chairman, we will discuss (the migrant crisis) in depth so that this problem will be solved," said Mr Anifah yesterday, after meeting his Bangladesh counterpart Abul Hassan Mahmmod Ali at the 4th Joint Commission Meeting between the two countries in Kota Kinabalu.

"I hope Myanmar will sit with us to find solutions before we take it to the international level," Mr Anifah said.

Nearly 3,000 migrants have been rescued or swum to shore in the three countries over the past week.

Activists say thousands more are feared to be drifting at sea in rickety boats, after a Thai crackdown on human-trafficking disrupted busy smuggling routes to South-east Asia.

The three countries have come under mounting international pressure to allow boats to land, after vessels overloaded with hundreds of starving and exhausted migrants were turned away.

The arrivals from Muslim Bangladesh are believed to be mainly economic migrants, while those from Myanmar are predominantly members of that country's Muslim ethnic Rohingya minority.

Myanmar "should deal with the Rohingya community internally instead of forcing it on its (South-east Asian) neighbours", Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said yesterday.

But Myanmar has so far maintained that the Rohingya belong to Bangladesh and had illegally migrated to its soil.

It has also threatened to snub planned regional talks on the crisis called for May 29 in Bangkok.

Mr Abul Hassan denied yesterday that the Rohingya - 50,000 of whom are already seeking refuge in Malaysia - are Bangladesh citizens.

However, as some of those refugees in Malaysia were reported to be from Bangladesh, he has given his assurance of co-operation to resolve the issue.

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