WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. says it expects to begin surveillance flights in Thai airspace in the next few days to help search for boat people stranded in Southeast Asian seas.
The U.S. Navy has been conducting flights out of Malaysia for nearly a week, identifying one possible refugee vessel so far. Although Thailand is a U.S. treaty ally, it has been more reticent, citing national security concerns.
Thousands of Rohingya Muslims and impoverished Bangladeshis are feared adrift at sea after human smugglers abandoned their boats.
State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke welcomed Thailand's announcement that it was now approving maritime flights. He said the U.S. is working with the Thai authorities to finalize the operational details.
U.S. representatives attended a regional conference hosted Friday by Thailand on addressing the humanitarian crisis.