Yangon (dpa) – Myanmar said it is ready to help migrants stuck at sea as international criticism mounts over the hundreds of people stranded off the coasts of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.
“Myanmar stands ready to provide humanitarian assistance to anyone who suffered in the sea,” read a statement carried by the official New Light of Myanmar newspaper on Wednesday.
“Myanmar shares concerns expressed by the international community, and is closely following the news.”
Hundreds of the migrants, mostly from Myanmar’s Muslim ethnic Rohingya group, have been turned away in the past week from the shores of South-East Asia.
The Rohingya are not recognized as one of Myanmar’s official diverse ethnicities, but considered Bengali immigrants, and are widely resented by the other groups in the Buddhist-majority country.
Wednesday’s statement did not mention the Rohingya by name, saying that it was “deeply concerned with the sufferings and life-threatening fate of innocent people as the consequences of human smuggling.”
The foreign ministers of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia were to discuss the problem in Kuala Lumpur Wednesday at a meeting that Myanmar declined to attend, saying it did not wish to internationalize the issue.
Wednesday’s statement said Myanmar would step up the fight against people trafficking and illegal migration within its boundaries.
A spokesman for the opposition National League for Democracy denied news reports that the party was shifting its position to advocate for citizenship for the Rohingya.
“I said human rights for all of these people, not citizenship rights,” said Nyaw Win, who had been cited by the earlier reports.
Citizenship should be granted only “to some of these people who meet requirements described in the 1982 Citizenship Act,” he said. The act lists Myanmar’s ethnic groups, and does not include the Rohingya.
“This is our party position.”
Party leader and Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday declined to answer reporters’ questions on her position towards the Rohingya migrants. “It is better to ask government,” she said.