Myanmar, UN Spar Over Rohingya Talks

Myanmar, UN Spar Over Rohingya TalksMyanmar, UN Spar Over Rohingya Talks

The UN refugee agency and Myanmar sparred over the plight of the Rohingya ethnic minority at a meeting aimed at tackling the Southeast Asian migrant crisis in Bangkok.

Representatives from 17 nations met in the Thai capital on Friday for talks on the crisis, which has seen thousands of desperate people flee on boats across the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea aiming for Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

Myanmar’s delegate to the talks in Bangkok rebuked the UN’s refugee agency for calling on the country to recognize the Muslim Rohingya minority as citizens to stem their exodus from its shores, Al Jazeera reported.

More than 3,500 starving migrants have arrived on Thai, Malaysian, and Indonesian soil over the past month while the UN estimates there are 2,500 more still feared trapped at sea as the monsoon season approaches.

The vast majority of migrants are Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in Buddhist majority Myanmar or Bangladeshis trying to escape grinding poverty.

Earlier, Volker Turk, the UN’s assistant high commissioner for refugees, said there could be no solution if root causes of the migrant crisis were not addressed.

“This will require full assumption of responsibility by Myanmar towards all its people. Granting citizenship is the ultimate goal,” he said.

Myanmar’s government does not recognize the Rohingya, who make up the majority of migrants involved in the current crisis, as an ethnic group, arguing instead they are really Bangladeshis. Bangladesh also does not recognize them as citizens.