Bangkok (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Myanmar has taken a tough line and refused to be singled out for blame for the Southeast Asia migrant crisis at a special summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Bangkok.
ASEAN nations, joined by the United States, the United Nations and other countries affected by migration in the Asia-Pacific region, agree that the crisis has reached "alarming levels”.
In recent weeks, thousands of Rohingya and undocumented migrant workers have left Myanmar and Bangladesh on boats, braving the open sea to reach the coasts of Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia.
Activists, human rights groups and international organisations believe the emergency is due to the fact that Myanmar refuses to grant citizenship to the members of this Muslim minority.
However, Myanmar delegation chief Htin Lynn did not hide his irritation with the UN agency for refugees (UNHCR), which has appealed to Myanmar authorities to grant citizenship to the Rohingya.
The UN estimates about 2,600 migrants are still stranded out at sea. Most are economic migrants from Bangladesh and Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in Myanmar.
Even though the decision was later reversed, the refusal of entry by Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur has made matters worse.
For his part, Myanmar's Htin Lynn said his country would co-operate in dealing with human trafficking. However, he also noted that on "this issue of illegal migration of boat people, you cannot single out my country;” in fact, “Finger-pointing will not serve any purpose. It will take us nowhere.”
In his opening remarks, Thai Foreign Minister Tanasak Patimapragorn said, "the influx of irregular migrants . . . has reached alarming levels," whilst "the root causes that motivated these people to leave must also be addressed".
Analysts and policy experts point to a growing international consensus that the issue must be addressed by going after those who profit from trafficking in human lives.
Although Indonesia and Malaysia have agreed to provide temporary shelter, the countries of origin – Myanmar and Bangladesh – are the main stumbling block.
There is little reason to think that this enlarged ASEAN meeting will lead to any move or common plan of action since it is not at a ministerial level.
In fact, behind the phoney openness, few governments in the region are willing to open their doors to migrants, fearing future mass landings.