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Saturday, May 16, 2015, Jaishtha 2, 1422 BS, Rajab 26, 1436 Hijr

Keep ports open, accept refugees, UN urges SE Asian nations
Myanmar unlikely to attend regional meet on migrant crisis in Bangkok on May 29
Published : Saturday, 16 May, 2015,  Time : 12:00 AM,  View Count : 228
Saleem Samad
In a hectic diplomatic move for a multinational agenda to resolve humanitarian crisis over surge of illegal migrants, Thailand will host a meeting later this month to address the growing plight of the victims still adrift at seas.
The one-day meeting in Bangkok on May 29 will have representatives from 15 countries including Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Myanmar as well as Australia and the United States.
Meanwhile civil rights groups, including New York based Human Rights Watch, have called for more initiative on the part of the United States.
Thousands of refugees have landed in the region - chiefly in Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia - in recent days, while activists estimate that up to 8,000 could presently be at sea. Several boats have been turned away.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday urged Southeast Asian countries to keep ports open and accept the refugees.
The UN says more than 25,000 people, including many Rohingyas and economic migrants from Bangladesh, have made the journey south from the Bay of Bengal between January and March this year.
Thailand crackdown on human trafficking after mass graves were discovered on May 1, with the bodies thought to be Rohingya from Myanmar and Bangladesh has prompted trafficking and smugglers responded by abandoning their human cargo.
The discovery of mass graves, camps of illegal migrants and hundreds of migrants floating in the sea brought increased international attention to the issue of slave trade.
In recent years, sectarian violence and a web of discriminatory laws against the Rohingya in Buddhist-majority Myanmar have sparked the region's largest exodus of boatpeople since the Vietnam War.
But Myanmar denies them citizenship and even refuses to recognise the Rohingya as an ethnic group, instead labelling them "Bengalis", a code for outsiders.
The Rohingya trace their ancestry in Myanmar back generations yet they remain blotted out from the nation's official narrative.
Malaysian Deputy Home Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said to the international media that the core of the problem was "the way they [Myanmar] treat the Rohingya people."
Myanmar may snub a regional meeting planned in Bangkok and instead accused Thailand of using the regional summit to divert attention from its own issues with Thai people engaged in slave trade.
Myanmar also blames Thai authorities of being complicit in creating the current overflow of Rohingya refugees in the first place by turning a blind eye on the issue of human trafficking.
According to UN figures, more than 1.3 million Rohingya live in Myanmar's western Rakhine State, where they are regarded as stateless. Myanmar considers them to be illegal migrants from Bangladesh - even though many have lived in the country for several generations.
Other than Myanmar's persecuted Rohingya minority, economic migrants from Bangladesh have also been reported to be among those smuggled.

Editor : Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury
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