Thailand calls May 29 regional summit on migrant crisis

BANGKOK (AFP) - Thailand will host a May 29 regional summit on the flow of migrants through the Bay of Bengal, the foreign ministry said on Tuesday, as it grapples with an "unprecedented" human trafficking crisis.

Hundreds of boat people have arrived on Thai, Malaysian and Indonesian soil since May 1, when the discovery of mass graves believed to belong to Bangladeshi and Myanmar migrants in southern Thailand prompted a crackdown on trafficking and smugglers to abandon their cargo.

Thai authorities, who have been accused of turning a blind eye - and also complicity in - the trade, say they cannot stem the flow of the migrants making dangerous sea journeys from Bangladesh and Myanmar without regional help.

"The special meeting is an urgent call for the region to... work together to address the unprecedented increase of irregular migration," the Thai foreign ministry said in a statement.

"Countries of origin, transit and destination must work together to address the problem," the statement said, adding that included tackling the "root causes".

The one-day meeting in Bangkok will include officials from 15 countries including Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Myanmar as well as Australia and the United States.

Many of those who make the perilous sea journey through the Bay of Bengal come from the Muslim Rohingya minority - a marginalised group living in impoverished western Myanmar and a wedge of coastal land in neighbouring Bangladesh.

Myanmar refuses the minority citizenship and communal violence between local Buddhists and the Rohingya has incubated the dire humanitarian situation that has seen them flee in droves.

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