Thailand and Malaysia to increase joint border patrols amid migrant crisis

A boat with migrants is being towed away from Thailand by a Thai navy vessel, in waters near Koh Lipe island on May 16, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A boat with migrants is being towed away from Thailand by a Thai navy vessel, in waters near Koh Lipe island on May 16, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK - Thailand and Malaysia will increase joint border patrols to deter human traffickers from setting up migrant camps after hundreds of Rohingya migrants were found in the jungle near the border earlier this month, media in the two countries reported on Saturday.

Thai News Agency (TNA) quoted Lieutenant General Prakarn Cholayuth as saying that the two countries had agreed to conduct joint border patrols in more locations, in a report picked up by Malaysia's Bernama news agency.

The report said the the decision was made at a high-level Thai-Malaysian committee meeting on Friday.

Starving and sick migrants and the remains of suspected victims of human trafficking were found in a few hideouts in the jungle in Songkhla earlier this month.

Lt Gen Prakarn was quoted as saying Thai authorities will provide further assistance to the starving and ill migrants found in the jungle.

Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia are under pressure to help hundreds of ethnic Rohingya refugees from Myanmar and impoverished Bangladeshi migrants who have swum to their shores or entered their waters in boats set adrift by traffickers after Thai authorities launched a crackdown on human smuggling.

Nearly 600 migrants were already sheltering in Sumatra's Aceh province after managing to get ashore in recent days, while more than 1,100 had reached Malaysia,Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.

About 100 made it to a southern Thai island, a local official said on Friday, while a boat which was found by journalists on Thursday continued to drift between Thai and Malaysian waters, its engine seemingly damaged.

Activists say 8,000 people may be adrift on overcrowded vessels, with starvation and disease claiming lives, after a Thai crackdown crimped busy human-trafficking routes and spurred smugglers to abandon men, women and children at sea.

Thailand ordered a clean-up of suspected traffickers' camps last week and also called for a May 29 regional summit to address what it called an "unprecedented increase" in migrant arrivals.