BANGKOK (AP) — Bangkok has agreed to allow the U.S. military to operate flights out of Thailand to search for migrants stuck on boats, a Thai official said Friday.
So far the U.S. Navy flights have been operating out of Subang, Malaysia, while the U.S. waited for permission from Thailand.
Thai Foreign Minister Thanasak Patimaprakorn, speaking Friday on the sidelines of a multinational meeting in Bangkok on ways to deal with the swelling tide of boat people in Southeast Asia, said the approval had been given.
He said they can start their operations right away but must cooperate with a center set up under the Thai air force.
In the last few weeks alone, at least 3,000 people have washed ashore or been rescued by fishermen, and several thousand more are believed to still be at sea after human smugglers abandoned boats amid a regional crackdown.