Thailand deploys landing ship to rescue migrants

After refusing to shelter migrants, country takes more proactive stance before May 29 regional meeting on migrant crisis

Thailand deploys landing ship to rescue migrants

World Bulletin / News Desk 

Thailand’s junta chief-cum-prime minister has ordered the deployment of a landing ship to rescue Muslim Arakan adrift on the Andaman Sea after refusing to open temporary shelters amid a regional migrant crisis, local media reported Tuesday.

“I have assigned the Navy to send the ship to the territorial waters limit to act as a floating naval base,” The Nation quoted General Prayuth Chan-ocha as saying.

Migrants with injuries would be treated on the 7,500-ton HTMS Ang Thong landing-platform dock ship - equipped with a small hospital and a 390-person crew - before being sent to shelters in Indonesia and Malaysia, he added.

The country’s air force will also operate patrols over the sea to spot vessels and help coordinate rescue operations.

Chan-ocha maintained his position Monday that no shelters would be opened in Thailand, where the majority of the mostly Buddhist population is opposed to Arakan arriving onshore.

“If any of the migrants found in Thai waters are injured or sick, they can be treated at hospitals in Thailand. But they will face illegal-entry charges,” he said. “It is up to them to decide.”

Thailand has come under heavy criticism for not joining the agreement between Malaysia and Indonesia.

“Why is it so difficult for Thailand to provide temporary refugee status for these people? It is mindboggling,” Human Rights Watch’s Asia deputy-director Phil Robertson said in an interview with Anadolu Agency on Monday.

“We have a mixed flow of people, with Arakan from western Burma [officially named Myanmar] and Bangladeshi,” he added. “But Thailand is putting the UNHCR away. In the absence of a UN screening process, these people will not be able to resettle in a third country, and it will be also difficult for Bangladesh to take back its citizens.”

In addition to the deployment of the landing ship, Chan-ocha indicated air patrols over the Andaman Sea would start Tuesday, welcoming a recent U.S. offer to help in the migrant crisis by flying aircraft in coordination with the Thai Air Force.

“Any country could do the same as the U.S., but they have to be under our supervision because it is our area,” he said. “They cannot patrol independently. They have to work with our task force.”

Last weekend, the junta rejected the U.S. offer to help patrol Thai waters with a surveillance aircraft, currently deployed on Phuket island. The Bangkok Post had reported of the Thai armed forces’ concern over U.S. interference or moves to the disadvantage of Thailand’s handling of the migrant issue.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 26 Mayıs 2015, 12:01