Malaysia orders rescue of Rohingya migrants stranded at sea

About 7,000 people are believed to be stranded at sea.

A file photo shows fishermen aiding migrants stranded at sea
A file photo shows fishermen aiding migrants stranded at sea

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has said his country will conduct search and rescue missions for Rohingya migrant boats in the Andaman Sea.

Humanitarian aid would also be delivered by land and sea, he said.

His announcement comes after weeks of authorities rejecting migrant boats and towing them out of Malaysian waters. Malaysia and Indonesia's foreign ministers are in Myanmar for talks on the migrant crisis. About 7,000 people are believed to be stranded at sea.

Most of the migrants are Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in Myanmar, but some are Bangladeshis thought to be economic migrants.

Malaysia and Indonesia have said they will temporarily shelter those that land on their territory, but need the international community's help with resettling them. Thailand says it will no longer push back boat people from its territorial waters.

Najib said on his Twitter account that it was "basic human compassion" to provide aid to the hungry and sick. He added that search and rescue by the country's naval and maritime authorities was needed to "prevent loss of life".

Malaysia was among several states in the region that had previously refused to take in the migrants and been towing the boats to other countries' waters, in what observers condemned as a deadly "ping-pong" match.

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