Burma agrees to attend meeting on Rohingya migrant crisis

After a flurry of diplomatic activity, the government of Burma has said that it will send representatives to a regional meeting in Bangkok on 29 May aimed at resolving the continuing humanitarian crisis of migrants stranded at sea in Southeast Asia and addressing the larger issue of human trafficking.

Burma, which has previously refused to attend any conference that specifically mentions the plight of ethnic Rohingya migrants fleeing the western part of the country, softened its stance after officials held separate talks last Thursday with the visiting foreign ministers of Malaysia and Indonesia.

Last week Malaysia and Indonesia announced that they would temporarily shelter an estimated 7,000 to 8,000 migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh languishing aboard rickety wooden boats in the Andaman Sea and Strait of Malacca, until they are either resettled in a third country or repatriated within a year.

Antony Blinken, the US Deputy Secretary of State, said Rohingya Muslims fleeing the predominantly Buddhist nation are risking perilous journeys and putting their lives in the hands of human traffickers because “they are in despair and don’t see a future” at home.

“The root of the problem for those leaving Burma is the political and social situation on the ground,” Mr Blinken said. “Even as we tackle the immediate humanitarian emergency – that is literally to save and rescue people, bring them back to land, get them the care that they need and treat them appropriately – we also have to get at the underlying conditions.”

The discovery of mass graves in Malaysia has raised fears that the Burmese Rohingya minority is being trafficked by force. More