Myanmar Rejects "Finger-Pointing" at Migration Crisis Conference

BANGKOK (DPA) – Human trafficking networks in South-East Asia have been significantly disrupted since a crisis emerged over the plight of thousands of migrants adrift at sea, the International Organization of Migration (IOM) said Thursday.

BANGKOK (DPA) — Myanmar hit back at its critics at a regional conference on South-East Asia's migration crisis Friday, after diplomats called for Yangon to address the root causes of the problem.

Diplomats and officials from 17 countries had gathered in Bangkok to discuss how to deal with the thousands of Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants trying to reach Malaysia and Indonesia by boat. 

"Finger-pointing will not serve any purpose and take us nowhere," said Htin Lynn, Myanmar's head of delegation. 

The conference began with remarks from the Thai Foreign Minister Tanasak Patimapragorn who said the crisis could only be solved through an international effort. 

The root causes that were causing the migrants to leave "must be addressed," he said.

The assistant high commissioner of the UNHCR, the United Nations' refugee agency, Volker Turk, said Myanmar must accept "full responsibility" for the flow of the ethnic Rohingya leaving the country.

"Citizenship [for the Rohingya] must be the ultimate goal," he said. 

The Myanmar government must grant identity documents to Rohingya "to stabilize and normalize lives," he said.

The mostly Muslim Rohingya say they suffer discrimination in Myanmar, which does not recognize them as one of the official ethnic groups, and considers them to be illegal Bengali immigrants.

Myanmar's Lynn said the delegation was misinformed and accused the UNHCR of politicizing the issue. The majority of people on the boats were victims of trafficking, he said.

The crisis was sparked earlier this month when Thai authorities found a mass grave of mostly Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. 

The ensuing outcry led the Thai government to crack down on human trafficking networks, stranding thousands of migrants with little food or water off the coasts of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Indonesia and Malaysia agreed last week to give temporary shelter to the more than 7,000 migrants but say they must be resettled by the international community within a year.

On Thursday, the International Organization of Migration said regional governments had made "significant progress" in disrupting human trafficking networks in South-East Asia.

(Reporting by Cod Satrusayang)

 
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