The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on behalf of the Royal Thai Government, will host the Special Meeting on Irregular Migration in the Indian Ocean on 29 May 2015 in Bangkok. The meeting, which is at the Senior Officials’ as well as practitioners’ levels, will be opened by General Tanasak Patimapragorn, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, and chaired by Mr. Norachit Sinhaseni, Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs. Thailand has invited 16 key affected member countries from the Bali Process, together with 3 observers and 3 international organizations. Ambassadors and Chargé d’Affaires a.i. accredited to Thailand have also been invited to observe the meeting.
The key topics of discussion will include:
1. Finding urgent solutions for the 7,000 irregular migrants estimated to be remaining in the Indian Ocean;
2. Finding long-term solutions to the problem of irregular migration in the Indian Ocean, particularly those related to human trafficking;
3. Addressing the challenges in countries of origin.
Key objectives of the meeting are:
1. Promote international cooperation in solving the problem, and engage key affected countries of origin, transit, and destination, considering that Thailand is a country of transit;
2. Emphasize the principle of international burden sharing;
3. Engage constructively with countries of origin and in the region.
To address the most urgent problem of estimated 7,000 migrants remaining in the deep sea, the Royal Thai Government has launched a special humanitarian operation by the Ministry of Defense and the Royal Thai Armed Forces to alleviate the suffering according to Thailand’s legal obligations and other capabilities. Surveillance units have been deployed by air and sea to monitor Thailand’s maritime border, while floating platforms equipped with medical and other staff on board to provide necessary humanitarian assistance, as well as to conduct national identification, are in operation. Security officials are also on board to investigate the possibility of human trafficking activities, which, if found, will be duly prosecuted. If disembarkation is absolutely necessary, the migrants will be treated first and foremost according to humanitarian principles under Thai laws.
In order to increase the efficiency of this operation, Thailand has liaised with the U.S. on possible cooperation regarding floating platform missions. As for news reports that the U.S. is requesting permission from Thailand to operate surveillance flights in Thai, Malaysian, and Indonesian territory using Thailand as a base, the Thai side has informed the U.S. side that cooperation in this regard would be welcome, that operation control would be under Thailand’s appointed commander of the special operation, and that further details are needed from the U.S. side.
This special humanitarian assistance operation was launched on 25 May and started its operation on 26 May 2015. It will be conducted until the beginning of the monsoon season.