The Rohingya immigrant issue is an internal affair of Myanmar, which Asean members should address on humanitarian grounds, former Association of Southeast Asian Nations secretary general Surin Pitsuwan said yesterday.

At the root of the problem is the fact that Myanmar’s constitution and internal laws do not recognise the Rohingya as citizens, he said. Other groups in Myanmar don’t accept the Rohingya, who are based mainly in Rakhine and number about 800,000 in all, he said, adding: “This has to be dealt with gradually, as Myanmar authorities are worried about intervention from the outside world.”

“The United Nations has been working on the Rohingya issue, but has to be careful in dealing with it, and Asean needs to address it, especially on humanitarian grounds,” he said.

Surin was speaking at a school in Nakhon Si Thammarat run and sponsored by the Pitsuwan family. HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn made a private visit to the Ban Tal pondok school. Surin said the princess had sponsored 14 such schools in the South, including those located in the upper part of the region, where subjects were taught in Thai.

Meanwhile, another 145 Rohingya aboard a Malaysia-bound boat entered Thai waters off the Trang coast yesterday, before they were provided with fresh water and supplies and had their vessel towed out of Thai waters. Two of them are women and there were two children on board.

Marine Police said no arrests were made, because of insufficient shelter that would be needed to house them afterwards. The food supplies provided by the Red Cross included canned fish, omelettes and medical assistance were not provided despite many of them being exhausted and starving, after their fresh water and supplies run out two days ago.

Reporters complained about not being allowed to follow a police boat to cover the provision of supplies. Marine Police claimed that their presence would cause panic among the Rohingya. –The Nation