YANGON: Myanmar’s navy has found a boat carrying more than 200 migrants, a government spokesman said on Friday, amid mounting international pressure to tackle a “boat people” crisis that has seen hundreds of migrants land in Indonesia and Malaysiaover the past month.
The announcement came after Myanmar’s military commander-in-chief said some migrants landing in Malaysia and Indonesia were likely pretending to be Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar to receive U.N. assistance and were likely from Bangladesh.
“While on patrol in Myanmar waters the Myanmar navy ship 568 found a boat loaded with about 200 Bengalis and another empty boat at sea…” on Thursday, government spokesman Ye Htutposted on his Facebook page.
The remarks are sure to spark concern after the United States lambasted Myanmar this week for failing to address the cause of the crisis, which observers say stems from Myanmar’s refusal to recognise the Rohingya, an ethnic minority group living in western Myanmar, as citizens.
Most of Myanmar’s 1.1 million Rohingya are stateless and live in apartheid-like conditions. Almost 140,000 were displaced in deadly clashes with Buddhists in the western state of Rakhine in 2012.
Government spokesman Ye Htut said the boat found on Thursday was from Ranong in southern Thailand.
Thailand is a traditional transit point for those trying to reach Malaysia for work.