Thursday, 15 August 2013

Surapong discusses Rohingya issue with Myanmar

FOREIGN MINISTER Surapong Tovichakchaikul discussed with his Myanmar counterpart Wunna Maung Lwin yesterday how to find a lasting solution to the problem of Rohingya boat people detained in Thailand.

More than 1,700 Rohinyga migrants have been held in Thailand for illegal entry after landing in the Kingdom from the border areas of Bangladesh and Myanmar. They said they were seeking better lives.

The initial number was 2,000 but a few hundred broke out of their crowded cells and got away.

"We have already taken care of [the refugees] for six months and are seeking new ways to handle them [and protect their] humanitarian and human rights," Surapong told reporters.

The Social Development and Human Security Ministry has proposed to relocate the Rohingya from immigration detention centres in the southern region to more space somewhere under control of the Interior Ministry, he said.

Surapong and Wunna Maung Lwin discussed the possibilities for resettling the Rohinya. Surapong said the Thai government would have consultations with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on the matter.
The Rohingya issue came to international attention four years ago when thousands in boats arrived to seek better lives in Southeast Asia.

In Myanmar, sectarian conflict that erupted last year after clashes between Rohingya Muslims and Myanmar Buddhists brought the issue back into focus. Thousands of Rohingya had been in refugee camps on the Bangladesh border for years and sailed out from there.

Thailand wanted to deport them to their places of origin but their nationality was unclear for a long time; whether they were Bangladeshi or Myanmar.

Bangladesh has finished its verification of Rohingya nationality now while Myanmar is continuing with the task, according to Surapong.

Thailand would also report to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which had earlier voiced concern over the plight of the Rohingya. Asked if ASEAN would get involved in the Rohingya question, Surapong said Myanmar did not want outsiders working on the issue which it deemed an internal affair.

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