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February 21, 2009

Thai PM: Regional effort needed to solve Rohingya issue

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, during his first visit Friday to Indonesia, reiterated that the Rohingya migrant issue must be solved through the collaborated efforts of regional countries.

Thai News Agency quoted Abhisit as telling reporters, after meeting with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, that the problem of illegal migrants was a regional problem.  The countries affected must find a solution to ensure that their national security was protected and the migrants were treated humanely.  

"Thailand has always been in favour of dealing with this problem at the regional level. Because we see this as a regional problem, we need to get all the countries involved. Whether they are countries of destination or countries of origin and also countries like Thailand and Indonesia and indeed when my government learned the problem and news reports we have held talks with UNHCR and have been supportive of the idea. This issue should be discus on regional level," he said.

The plight of Rohingya boat people became an issue after some of hundreds of Rohingya rescued in Indian and Indonesian waters in recent weeks said they were beaten by the Thai military before being towed out to sea with few supplies. Some of them were reportedly missing. The Thai military, however, denied the allegation.

The Thai premier added the issue would be on the agenda at the Bali Process, in early March. It would also be discussed at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit in Thailand.

The Bali Process is a ministerial-level forum co-chaired by Indonesia and Australia on people-smuggling and human trafficking. Thailand's southern seaside resort town of Hua Hin is scheduled to host the Asean summit from February 27 to March 1.

Other issues discussed at the meeting between the Thai and Indonesian leaders included economic measures to cope with the global recession, fisheries cooperation and Thailand’s southern insurgency.




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