‘Mass casualties’ unless Thailand and others meet obligations to rescue boat people – TRFN

Rohingya migrants passed food supplies dropped by a Thai helicopter to others aboard a boat drifting off the southern island of Koh Lipe in the Andaman Sea on Thursday.

LONDON, May 15 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia should fulfil their obligations under international maritime law by rescuing thousands of migrants adrift at sea and avoiding “mass casualties”, shipping experts said on Friday.

Thousands of mostly Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in Myanmar and others escaping poverty in Bangladesh are stranded on boats as governments in the region seek to prevent them from landing, despite a request by the United Nations to rescue them.

“We will have mass casualties on our hands if there is not an immediate and concerted search-and-rescue operation by countries in the region,” said David Hammond, a maritime law expert and founder of charity Human Rights At Sea.

The migrants have been at sea in rickety boats for weeks with little water and food following a crackdown by the Thai government on human trafficking.

“Turning these vulnerable people away because of political concerns that they may wish to seek refugee status is unacceptable and violates the obligation of governments to help people in distress at sea,” Hammond told the Thomson Reuters Foundation…

Related: Fishermen brought about 700 boat people ashore in Aceh, Indonesia. It is described as ‘temporary.’

Indonesia’s official statement says they will try to prevent boats from entering their territorial waters ‘to avert a flood of others following behind causing “social issues”.’

Rohingya-receive-aidThai helicopter dropping food.