US asks Southeast Asian govts not to send back new boat arrivals

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The United States has urged the governments of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand to refrain from pushing back arrivals of new boat carrying Bangladeshi migrants and Rohingya at sea.

“We urge the countries of the region to work together quickly, first and foremost, to save the lives of migrants now at sea who are in need of an immediate rescue effort,” said US State Department spokesperson Jeff Rathke.

This is an emergency that US believes needs to be addressed with appropriate speed and resolve through a regionally coordinated effort to save the lives of the thousands of vulnerable migrants and asylum seekers, he said.

At the daily briefing in Washington yesterday, the director of the US State Department’s press office expressed concerned over the urgent situation faced by thousands of Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants at sea in Southeast Asia.

“The (US) secretary called his Thai counterpart last night to discuss the situation of migrants in the Andaman Sea and to discuss the possibility of Thailand providing temporary shelter for them,” the spokesman said.

US ambassadors in the region are intensely engaged with governments to encourage a rapid humanitarian response, he said.

The United States note that nearly 3,000 people have landed this week in Indonesia and Malaysia, where they are receiving assistance, the spokesman mentioned.

 “We appreciate the steps taken by the governments of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand to assist these migrants, and urge continued coordination with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration,” he said.

The United States is now discussing ways that it can continue to support the regionally led efforts in this crisis.

“We plan to send a senior delegation to the regional conference hosted by Thailand in Bangkok on May 29th,” Rathke said.