Bangkok (AsiaNews) - The Thai army is mobilizing in support of the Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants, protagonists in recent weeks in a wave of migration that has caused a real emergency in the waters of the Andaman Sea.
Ahead of the ASEAN summit in Bangkok on May 29, the military launched a an aid and assistance operation for these modern-day boat people, waiting for a coordinated plan of action involving all the governments in the region.
Thai military sources explain the mission objective is to set up a floating "operations base " float, which has the task of patrolling the seas and providing immediate aid to the boats adrift to allow them to reach their final destination.
In the past ten days, more than 3,000 people, mostly from Myanmar and Bangladesh, have been rescued in the Andaman Sea and off the coast of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. Thailand’s crackdown on human trafficking after the discovery of a mass grave with dozens of bodies of Rohingya near its border with Malaysia has compounded the crisis.
The push back policy adopted by Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur simply made matters worse. The two nations later rowed back on the policy following a Foreign Ministers summit. ASEAN and other parties touched by human trafficking are set to meet in Bangkok on 29 May to address the issue.
The Thai armed forces mission is to distribute food, water, basic medicines and other essential goods, such as fuel for boats. The operation will last two weeks and will be under the coordination with the authorities of Malaysia and Indonesia, the final destination of the boats laden with desperate Rohingya refugees - a Muslim minority persecuted in Myanmar - and undocumented migrant workers of Bangladesh.
Questioned on the matter, the Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha hopes that "the summit on 29 May" would give "real answers" to solve the Rohingya problem, without there being "fractures" within ASEAN.
He warns sensitive topics such as "race and ancestry" must be avoided while ensure these people a sustainable development and the opportunity to build a future through work.
Maung Kyaw Nu, president of the Rohingya Association in Thailand, denounces trafficking involving members of the Muslim minority in various countries in the area, and calls for full recognition of the association by the government of Bangkok.
Meanwhile, in Yangon, Myanmar, sympathizers of the nationalist and the radical Buddhist movement took to the streets to denounce a "campaign of foreign pressure" on the country, over the repatriation of the Rohingya.
A group of people rallied near the stadium to protest against the possibility of return of Muslim migrants rescued at sea in recent weeks. They also expressed total disappointment to the United Nations and the international press, for how they are covering the migrant crisis in Southeast Asia.