‘Burma must share liability for migrant crisis’

Navy ships from Indonesia and Malaysia are scouring south-east Asian waters for boats believed to be carrying thousands of migrants, as a senior US diplomat said Burma needs to shoulder some responsibility for the crisis.

Deputy secretary of state Anthony Blinken said Rohingya Muslims fleeing the predominantly Buddhist nation are risking perilous journeys and putting their lives in the hands of human traffickers because “they are in despair and don’t see a future” at home.

They have been denied citizenship and chased off their own land, and have little access to education or adequate medical care and cannot move around freely.

“The root of the problem for those leaving Myanmar [Burma] is the political and social situation on the ground,” Blinken said at a news conference in Yangon.

“Even as we tackle the immediate humanitarian emergency — that is literally to save and rescue people, bring them back to land, get them the care that they need and treat them appropriately — we also have to get at the underlying conditions.”

He said he made that point when he met president Thein Sein, army commander-in-chief and other officials.

South-east Asia is grappling with a humanitarian crisis of monumental proportions. Fearing arrest after a crackdown on human trafficking networks in the region, captains earlier this month started abandoning boats packed with Rohingya Muslimsand Bangladeshis.

More than 3,600 migrants have washed ashore in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand since May 10, and thousands more are believed to be trapped at sea.

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