Arizona Public Radio | Your Source for NPR News
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Asia's Governments Talk As Desperate Rohingyas Wait At Sea

At least 1,000 desperate Rohingya migrants from Myanmar remain stranded on boats in the Andaman Sea with little food or water as the nations of Southeast Asia seem no closer to resolving the problem of where — or even whether — they will come ashore.

As Michael Sullivan reports from Thailand, the region's countries have begun leaning on Myanmar to take action to stop the flow.

Michael explains that some boats have managed to land, but others have been "pushed back by both the Thai and Malaysian navies, despite pleas from the men, women and children aboard. Both countries have provided food, water and repairs before towing the boats back out to sea."

Malaysia seems to be taking the lead in trying to resolve the crisis, but has restated that it is not in a position to take the refugees. Some of them are said to be economic refugees from Bangladesh, but most are thought to be from the minority Muslim Rohingya people from northwest Myanmar, who adhere to a blend of Sunni and Sufi Islam.

According to The Associated Press:

"Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman met with his counterpart from Bangladesh, Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali, ahead of a meeting with the Indonesian and Thai foreign ministers scheduled for Wednesday, officials said.

"But more than two weeks into a regional humanitarian crisis, the stance of Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia remained unchanged — that none wants to take the migrants in, fearing that accepting a few would result in an unstoppable flow. Myanmar, from where many of the migrants have fled, appears unwilling to engage in talks."

"I have already stated that we cannot afford to accept more of them, as a huge number already exist here — and so far no countries want to settle them," Anifah was quoted as saying by Malaysia's New Straits Times.

As Reuters notes: "Migrants have long made their way from the Bay of Bengal's southeast corner to Thailand, but a crackdown on traffickers by the Thai government disrupted the route and several thousand were left at sea with nowhere to go, though more than 2,000 have made it to the shores of Malaysia and Indonesia."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.