Southeast Asian governments and international organizations made modest progress at their May 29 meeting in Bangkok dealing with the recent surge of refugees, agreeing on measures to improve the search for stranded vessels. But they may have missed a precious opportunity to respond more fully to the regional humanitarian and diplomatic crisis.
The urgency revolves around the many thousands of people adrift at sea or held in camps, victims of an unscrupulous network of human traffickers. The issues are vast and complex, reaching into the inner workings of governments and societies in the region. Yet the international community has extensive experience dealing with similar problems during the exodus of Vietnamese "boat people" between 1975 and 1995.