South Asians for Human Rights

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Foreign ministers will meet Sunday to discuss issues related to illegal Bangladeshi and Muslim Arakan boat people

World Bulletin / News Desk 

Malaysia’s foreign minister has said he will meet his counterpart from Bangladesh Sunday to discuss the on-going humanitarian crisis occurring off Southeast Asian shores.

Datuk Seri Anifah Aman has said that the meeting would discuss among other issues, matters related to the surge in illegal Bangladeshi and Muslim Arakan boat people travelling to the region.

“It is one of the topics and a very important issue in the agenda,” he told reporters.

Sunday’s meeting with Bangladeshi Foreign Minister A.H. Mahmood Ali is scheduled to take place in Kota Kinabalu in the state of Sabah on Borneo Island.

Since Thailand launched a crackdown on human trafficking in its southern region May 1, boatloads of Bangladeshi and Arakan migrants have been turning up on Malaysian and Indonesian shores.

All three countries have since announced plans to turn the vessels back, unless they are unseaworthy and sinking. Thailand has since reneged, however, saying it may let smaller boats in.

On Saturday, Thai News Agency (TNA) quoted Lieutenant General Prakarn Cholayuth as saying that the Thailand and Malaysia had agreed to conduct joint patrols on the country’s shared border in more locations.

The report said that the decision was taken at a high-level committee between the two countries on Friday.

Inter-governmental agency the International Organization for Migration has estimated that 8,000 migrants being smuggled from either western Myanmar or Bangladesh are currently on boats in the Andaman Sea and Malacca Straits.

The deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch has accused Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia of playing games with the boats and putting the lives of those on board at risk.

Phil Robertson urged the countries’ navies to “stop playing a three-way game of human ping pong,” as the world would judge how they treated “these most vulnerable men, women and children.”

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