Indonesia says migrant crisis is regional problem
JAKARTA – Agence France-Presse
AFP PhotoIndonesia said on May 19 that the migrant boat crisis was a problem for all of Southeast Asia ahead of key regional talks, as Jakarta and other countries came under more pressure to let the boatpeople land.
Nearly 3,000 Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants have made it to shore in Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia in recent days after a Thai crackdown disrupted people-trafficking routes, prompting operators of rickety boats to dump their human cargo.
Those who have arrived were either abandoned on the coast or in shallow waters, or rescued from sinking boats, with the three nations sparking outrage by turning away vessels deemed still seaworthy.
Thousands more migrants are believed to be stranded at sea without food or water, and international pressure is growing for Southeast Asian nations to open their ports to the vessels, with the United Nations and the U.S. both calling for swift action.
Fears were growing for hundreds of Rohingya migrants on a boat which was bounced between waters off Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia and which has not been heard from in more than 60 hours.
Around 300 men, women and children were found pleading for help last week on the drifting trawler.
The region has faced criticism for its timid diplomacy, particularly its failure to curb what is seen as Buddhist-majority Myanmar’s systematic abuse of its unwanted Rohingya people, which has sent masses of the Muslim ethnic minority fleeing abroad.
Myanmar insists the Rohingya are illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh, for whom it is not responsible.
In recent years an increasing number of Bangladeshis have also joined the Rohingya exodus across the Bay of Bengal, seeking to escape grinding poverty in their homeland.
Ahead of talks with her Malaysian and Thai counterparts in Kuala Lumpur on May 20, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi signaled May 19 that the crisis was the responsibility of the whole region.
Around half the new migrant arrivals have been in Indonesia’s western province of Aceh, and horrific tales have emerged of smugglers abusing migrants and deadly fights erupting on board overcrowded, abandoned vessels.