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Talks could signal breakthrough in plight of Asian migrants

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia -- The foreign minister of Malaysia will visit Myanmar today to discuss Southeast Asia's migrant crisis, a day after Indonesia and Malaysia offered to temporarily take in thousands of people who have been stranded at sea in a major breakthrough that could ease the emergency.

Foreign Minister Anifah Aman will hold talks with his Myanmar counterpart to exchange views on irregular movements of people, in particular human trafficking and people smuggling in Southeast Asia, according to the ministry.

In the past three weeks, more than 3,000 people -- Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in Myanmar and Bangladeshis trying to escape poverty -- have landed in overcrowded boats on the shores of Southeast Asian countries. Aid groups estimate that thousands more are stranded at sea following a crackdown on human traffickers that prompted captains and smugglers to abandon their boats.

The mounting crisis prompted Malaysia to call an emergency meeting with the foreign ministers of Indonesia and Thailand yesterday.

But while Indonesia and Malaysia said they would temporarily take in some refugees, they also appealed for international help, saying the crisis is a global, not a regional, problem.

A joint statement said that Malaysia and Indonesia had "agreed to offer temporary shelter provided that the settlement and repatriation process will be done in one year by the international community."

In Washington, the State Department said the United States was also willing to take in Rohingya refugees as part of international efforts to cope with the crisis.

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