Southeast Asia is battling a migrant crisis that has seen hundreds of "boat people", mostly Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar and Bangladeshi migrants who fled persecution and poverty at home or were abducted by traffickers, pushed back out to sea by Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Many now face sickness, and possible starvation.

"I have further ordered @tldm_rasmi (navy) and APMM (Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency) to conduct search and rescue efforts on Rohingya boats," Najib said on his Twitter account."We have to prevent loss of life," he said, adding that humanitarian aid would be delivered by land and sea.

Malaysia and Indonesia on Wednesday said they would let as many as 7,000 migrants on the seas now to come ashore temporarily.

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