The Thailand government has called for a conference of 15 countries on 29 May, to discuss ways and means to stop human trafficking, especially the problem of Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants. This is a timely conference indeed. The participants include countries from where the migrants are coming, the countries where they are taking shelter, and also powerful countries like the US. At a time when the hungry and desolate people are floating around various coasts, we expect such a conference to yield positive results.
The Bangladeshi and Rohingya migrant problem came up into world focus when 30 mass graves were recently unearthed in a jungle of Sangkhla province in southern Thailand. The UN and other international agencies and countries have called for a solution to the problem and have offered assistance.
Myanmar’s response to such an important conference in Thailand is unfortunate. The president’s office of Myanmar has stated that they may not join the conference. Such an attitude is unacceptable.
The Malaysian prime minister expressed hope that Myanmar would join the conference. Needless to say, the Rohingya crisis is at the bottom of this South Asian migrant problem. The cruel treatment by Myanmar authorities is forcing the Rohingya exodus. Bangladesh too is having to bear the burden of thousands of Rohingyas.
The conference in Thailand will not have a tangible impact unless Myanmar joins. The international community must pressurise Myanmar into participating.
In the meantime, the Bangladesh government must take immediate and effective measures to rescue the Bangladeshi migrants at sea and in detained in various countries. We cannot send these people to their deaths. There is no alternative to diplomatic efforts to save them.