Myanmar’s Stand on Boat People
- Recently, there have been reports by international media on irregular migrants and boat people in the Andaman Sea and the Straits of Malacca. Myanmar also shares concerns expressed by the international community, and is closely following the news.
- Myanmar is deeply concerned with the sufferings and life-threatening fate of victims as the consequences of human smuggling and illegal migration in the region.
- Myanmar firmly believes that the issue of boat people is the problem of people smuggling and human trafficking. It is evident that most of the boat people are victims of people smuggling and human trafficking, in some cases, in a violent manner.
- Meanwhile, unverified reports and information have created misperception on the issue by pointing out to the unfortunate incidents occurred in Whine State 3 years ago.
- Myanmar has sought clarifications from some United Nations Agencies and NGOs in connection with their various reports and notions contained therein as it is not clear as to how the numbers and figures were collected. Some reports stated, “Irregular maritime movements are by their clandestine nature, making the data on such movements difficult to independently verify.”
- Smugglers and traffickers are covering up their illegal activities with different approaches and by portraying trafficked victims as the people who need international protection.
- In the region, there are poor people who seek better livelihoods and economic opportunities, and on the other hand, there are industries hunting for cheap and unregulated labourers. In the absence of inclusive and effective bilateral or regional mechanisms to address the issue, this vacuum is being exploited by smugglers and traffickers.
- Myanmar has been consistently highlighting the main problem of people smuggling and human trafficking in the region. Current incidents of finding mass graves, traffickers’ secret camps and their heinous crimes call for stronger law enforcement measures in respective countries. There is also need to make frequent exchange of information to crackdown on the traffickers. Furthermore, media campaign is needed to educate people especially from rural areas.
- Against this backdrop, Myanmar is making serious efforts on the prevention of smuggling and illegal migration. One such activity is the regular patrolling in the Myanmar territorial water by the Myanmar Navy and Air Force to deter any illegal trespassing in the territory and to provide safety for the trespassers, if any, found on the sea. Myanmar stands ready to provide humanitarian assistance to any victim suffering in its territorial waters.
- Preventive measures on human smuggling and illegal migration are being implemented throughout the nation. Likewise, the Rakhine State Government and concerned departments are doing their utmost to prevent illegal migration by sea.
- Myanmar has been extending its cooperation to countries in the region through existing bilateral and regional mechanisms which address people smuggling, human trafficking and related transnational crimes.
Position on the people rescued by Myanmar Navy
- The issue at hand is considered from the humanitarian ground and against this backdrop, Myanmar Navy and Air Force are patrolling Myanmar territorial water to provide humanitarian assistance to victim who are suffering in territorial waters.
- Along this line, Myanmar Navy rescued two fishing trawlers off the western coast of Maung Taw Township, Rakhine State on 21 May 2015; one of the trawlers has (208) people onboard and the other one has no passenger. Out of 208 boat people, 200 are found to be Bangladeshis from Cox’s Bazar, Chittagong, and northern Dhaka. They left their country in search of better employment opportunities in Thailand and Malaysia.
- On 29 May 2015, Myanmar Navy rescued another boat carrying over 700 persons near Pya Pon Township.
- The rescued boat people have been provided with temporary shelter, food, health care service and other humanitarian assistance in cooperation with United Nations agencies, other international organizations and INGOs.
- While rendering necessary assistance to the remaining boat people, it will be difficult for a developing country like Myanmar to continue receiving and temporarily sheltering more boat people. Rescue efforts, providing temporary shelter and humanitarian assistance to the boat people are done solely on the humanitarian ground. Myanmar is not in position to shelter the rescued persons for a longer term.
- On 8 June 2015, Myanmar officially handed over 150 persons who are verified as Bangladeshi nationals among the 208 boat people rescued by the Myanmar Navy on 21 May 2015. Myanmar and Bangladesh authorities are continued cooperating in the verification process of the remaining boat people from the 208 rescued and the additional 700 plus boat people who were rescued on 29 May 2015. The remaining boat people will be handed over to the country of origin, upon completion of the verification process.