Thailand is preparing to receive people fleeing the fighting in Myanmar and send them back “when they are ready,” the prime minister has said.
“We will provide them with shelter like in the past ... and send them back when they are ready,” Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha told reporters.
At least 109 people were killed in the recent violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, most of them militants, but also members of the security forces and civilians.
About 1.1 million Rohingya Muslims live in Rakhine, but they are denied citizenship and are seen by many officials in Myanmar as "illegal immigrants" from Bangladesh.
Since the massive counter-offensive last year, about 87,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh. Recent violence has triggered a fresh exodus.
Bangladesh border guards told Reuters they had sent about 550 Rohingya back across the Naf river that separates the two countries since Monday, despite an appeal by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for Dhaka to allow Rohingya to seek safety.
Prayuth did not say whether any displaced people had arrived in Thailand. He did not specifically mention the Rohingya.
Thailand was once a popular transit route for Rohingya escaping Myanmar across the Andaman Sea. Others came by land.
But a 2015 Thai police crackdown on human trafficking syndicates led to ships with migrants aboard being abandoned at sea. It also disrupted the networks that brought migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh to countries like Thailand and Malaysia.
Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Asia Division, said Thailand should reevaluate its policy towards people fleeing.
"If the prime minister is serious, he should instruct that there be a long overdue re-evaluation of Thai policy towards fleeing Rohingya that recognizes these people are not seeking to resettle in Thailand, but rather just trying to land somewhere safe where they can reside temporarily in dignity before continuing their journey," Robertson told Reuters.