Malaysia refutes criticism for turning back immigrant boats

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Bangkok, May 18: Malaysia's National Security Council Chairman Shahidan Kassim characterised as "unfair" criticism of his country for turning back boatloads of Myanmar immigrants.

He said the immigrants on boats have been given humanitarian aid, Efe news agency reported.

Thailand

Some 6,000 people are trapped in boats in the Bay of Bengal, hopeful of disembarking in Malaysia, Thailand or Indonesia, according to the UN, which has criticised these countries for pushing them back to the high seas.

Last week, some 2,500 refugees -- mostly Rohingyas, a Muslim minority persecuted in Myanmar where they are not accepted as citizens -- managed to disembark.

Shahidan said the boats Malaysia turned away have been provisioned with food, water and fuel sufficient for a return journey.

He confirmed that Malaysia ended its "open-door" policy in an effort to stem a tide of illegal immigrants from entering the country.

He added that some 45,000 Rohingyas from Myanmar who were UN High Commissioner for Refugees cardholders are already in Malaysia, as are around 152,000 illegal immigrants.

Malaysia hopes talks planned with Thailand and Indonesia will help tackle the crisis and pressurize Myanmar to stop the traffic.

On the other hand, Myanmar blames Thailand for the human trafficking problem and refuses to accept the Rohingyas, even the use of the term, as it considers them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

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