Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, On behalf of the Royal Thai Government, I am honoured to open this Special Meeting on Irregular Migration in the Indian Ocean.
I would like to extend our warmest welcome to all delegates. We are here today to address the issue of irregular maritime migration in our region in a collective and sustainable manner.
The influx of irregular migrants in the Indian Ocean has reached an alarming level. Sadly, we have witnessed desperate migrants leaving their homes and risking their lives. The situation has affected various countries in the region. No country can solve this problem alone.
The problem of irregular migration is more complex than what we are seeing. More than ever, we need concerted efforts by all countries concerned be they countries of origin, transit, or destination. It also requires both time and international cooperation to address the problem comprehensively in the spirit of international burden-sharing. We need to work together.
Recognizing the urgent nature of the problem, Thailand took the initiative to host this Special Meeting with 3 main objectives: first, to address the immediate humanitarian situation of stranded migrants; second, to combat the long-term problem of people smuggling and human trafficking to prevent further irregular movements; and, third, to address the root causes from origin.
Last week, Foreign Ministers of Indonesia, Malaysia,and Thailand met in Putrajaya to discuss these urgent matters. We announced our intention to continue to provide humanitarian assistance to those migrants still at sea. Malaysia and Indonesia also offered temporary shelter for the stranded migrants provided that the resettlement and repatriation process will be done in one year by the international community. On our part, Thailand remains ready as always to provide humanitarian assistance to these migrants by tripling our efforts.
On 25 May, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha ordered the launch of an integrated special taskforce and a humanitarian mission to provide assistance to migrants stranded at sea.
Since 26 May, Royal Thai Navy vessels have been deployed to serve as floating platforms to provide humanitarian assistance to those migrants at sea. Personnel on these floating vessels consists of the followings: First a medical team to provide treatment, food and water; Second an investigation team to investigate the possibility of human trafficking activities; Third a registration team to identify and prepare for possible solutions, including referrals to shelters offered by Indonesia and Malaysia. If disembarkation is absolutely necessary, the migrants will be treated first and foremost according to humanitarian principles under Thai laws.
We have also deployed air patrols by the Royal Thai Navy and the Royal Thai Air Force to monitor movements over Thai waters, adjacent area, and international waters within our capability to assist and support the humanitarian mission.
We welcome other interested countries to join in, under Thailand’s coordination. In this juncture, I have asked my Ministry to set up a coordinating center, working with IOM, to facilitate countries or organizations wishing to join in our humanitarian undertaking.
Distinguished participants, Thailand remains ever committed to our humanitarian tradition of hosting refugees and displaced persons since the 1970s. Even now some 130,000 still remain under our care. At present, we are also hosting many other groups, including some 600 irregular maritime migrants.
This current crisis highlights the sad reality that people are still compelled to leave their homes and loved ones, due to diverse causes. Irregular migration has become increasingly complex and demands comprehensive solutions. We must not solve one problem just to find out later that it has in fact created another. While we are trying to help those in need, we must seek to stop the outflow of irregular migration and combat transnational crime and destroy their networks. The root causes that motivated these people to leave must also be addressed.
I thank all participants for joining us at this meeting. Our work today means much more than statements and exchanges of ideas. Our work today will pave way for further work in the days and months ahead. We have one common objective, which is, first and foremost, to save lives and to put an end to people having to risk their lives in hope of a better future.
Let us work together in a spirit of friendship.
Let us not only look at the problems but together find solutions.
With that, I wish to declare this meeting open and I wish all of you fruitful deliberations and a successful meeting. Thank you.