Thailand 'interested' in refugee swap deal with Australia


THAILAND has expressed interest in striking a similar asylum-seeker deal with Australia to the one proposed by the Gillard government with Malaysia.

Thai Foreign Minister, Kasit Piroyma, has lent his support to Australia's bilateral agreement for asylum seekers with Malaysia, saying it is a potential model for the region in facing migration issues.

Mr Kasit made the comments at a joint press conference with Australian Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd, following official talks in Bangkok.

Mr Rudd was on a stopover in Bangkok before travelling to Europe and later China.

Thailand's support comes amid reports a boat load of 32 asylum seekers, intercepted north of Broome yesterday, would be sent to Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, or another country in the Asia Pacific.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said the refugees, believed to be from Afghanistan and Pakistan, would be taken to Christmas Island pending removal to another country, despite the deal with Malaysia yet to be finalised.


At the same time, over a four-year period, Australia will resettle 4000 refugees already residing in Malaysia.

The new bilateral arrangements were part of a broader regional cooperation framework agreed to at a Bali Process Ministerial Conference in Indonesia in March.

Mr Kasit welcomed the Australian and Malaysian agreement. "This is part of a result of the discussion within the context of the Bali Process and all of us," he told reporters.

"Australia and Canada in particular, have been trying to find a model on how to look at the whole thing (of asylum seekers) in a more systematic manner.

"The agreement between Australia and Malaysia on this particular model based on a five to one ratio, is something that the rest of us would be interested to look at and to study and look at the possibility of future operations."

Human rights groups and lawyers have condemned Australia's agreement with Malaysia calling it degrading, demeaning, and dehumanising.

The Associated Press, citing the Law Council of Australia, called the deal an inappropriate solution to a complex problem.

But federal government officials said the policy's aim is to have a clearer plan to process asylum seekers to Australia, many of whom come by boat and are aided by human trafficking gangs, through greater regional cooperation.

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