Minister of Foreign Affairs confirms arrival of 734 ‘boat people’

Migrant women rescued by the Myanmar Navy at sea, gather as they arrive to Kayin Chaung Jetty near Maung Daw township, Rakhine State, western Myanmar, 03 June 2015. Photo: Nyunt Win/EPA

734 people aboard a boat discovered in Myanmar waters on May 29 landed today in Rakhine State for processing, Myanmar’s Minister for Foreign Affairs revealed.

Myanmar officials will process those aboard from today, on board were 611 men, 72 female and 51 children said Minister of Foreign Affairs, Wunna Maung Lwin, fronting a crowd of ambassadors and INGO delegations at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs office on 4 June.

“After careful consideration on humanitarian grounds they have now arrived on safe ground for temporary shelter. After providing necessary needs such as healthcare and food the verification process will be carried out, beginning today,” said Wunna Maung Lwin.

The Minister spoke of his country’s further commitment to cooperating with regional countries in preventing transnational crime, human trafficking, and offering assistance to those affected by trafficking.

“To demonstrate our sense of responsibility Myanmar’s navy and airforce intensified their search for those who are suffering at sea, on 21 May the Myanmar navy rescued a total of 200 people. On humanitarian grounds we are giving temporary shelter in Rakhine State, among them 200 were found to be Bangladeshi after the verification process run by the Myanmar side,” said Wunna Maung Lwin.

Processing of the first boat is complete and of those on board eight were of Myanmar origin, who he described as “sailors” not mentioning their ethnicity.

The Minister stated that the countries involved should not resort to pointing fingers and assist each other in anyway possible. He further said that the Bangladeshi government is providing consular assistance and will begin returning its citizens on 7 June.

“We fully support the convening of the meeting and we will continue to participate and fully cooperate with other ASEAN member states,” hesaid.

He continued by saying Myanmar is a developing country and cannot offer long-term support but will continue to provide the resources to identify those discovered and return them to their country of origin,

“Under these circumstances Myanmar is not in a position to provide shelter to them [migrants] on a long-term basis, after the verification process we will coordinate with the country of origin and take them back.”

The Rakhine State was affected by rioting in 2012 forcing the Rohingya population to live in IDP camps, a large proportion of those discovered in Thailand and Malaysia were recently identified as Rohingya.

Wunna Maung Lwin addressed this issue by saying that improvements have been made in Rakhine state,

“The government is taking measures to improve education, access to healthcare, improvement of living conditions and improving livelihoods in Rakhine State, the condition on the ground has improved compared to the past years,” he said.

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