To help the thousands of migrants from Burma and Bangladesh believed to be stranded at sea, the U.S. military has begun maritime surveillance flights off the west coast of Malaysia to help locate them, according to U.S. Embassy Bangkok in Thailand.
“The flights are consistent with our offer to assist governments in the region to improve their understanding of the situation in the Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal,” Embassy Spokeswoman Melissa Sweeney said in a May 26 statement.
She added that U.S. officials are continuing “to consult with governments in the region regarding their needs and the best ways the U.S. can support them providing humanitarian assistance for vulnerable migrants in the region.”
More than 3,600 people have landed in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand since May 10. Thousands more are believed to be trapped on boats with little or no food or water.
The Obama administration welcomed the decision by all three countries to work together to provide the migrants with humanitarian assistance and shelter.
“The U.S. stands ready to help the countries of the region bear the burden and save lives today. We have a common obligation to answer the call of these migrants, who have risked their lives at sea,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said May 20.
She said the United States is prepared to take a leading role in any multicountry resettlement effort organized by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and noted that more than 1,000 Rohingya have come to the United States since October 2014.
During that period, the Obama administration also has provided nearly $109 million in humanitarian assistance for vulnerable Burmese, she said.