Supreme Commander Tanasak Patimapragorn on Friday lashed out at the international community for not doing enough to reach out to Rohingya migrants.
He said while international organisations stressed the need to help the Rohingya, they did not provide enough direct assistance and Thailand was forced to shoulder the burden of looking after them.
Several hundred Rohingya have been detained in Songkhla, Narathiwat, Trang, Pattani and Phangnga provinces attempting to pass through into Malaysia.
Yesterday, 949 Rohingya illegal migrants were being held in Thailand.
Gen Tanasak said it was the government's decision on whether a camp should be set up to hold the Rohingya.
He noted that Thailand was obliged to provide short-term shelter and assistance to the migrants on humanitarian grounds, but long term he said they would have to leave.
He said Thailand was not a target country for Rohingya migrants, but merely a transit point used on the way to a third country.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said on Friday that the government would discuss with the United Nations strategies to stem the Rohingya exodus from Myanmar, as well as appropriate third countries where Rohingya migrants could settle.
"Building shelters for them in Thailand is not a solution since the Rohingya do not want to settle here. They just use Thailand as a passage to other countries," the prime minister said.
Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung said yesterday the issue needed to be treated with care. He insisted no push-back policy was being considered.
The issue was delicate and strict immigration law enforcement would cast the country in a bad light, he said.
Activists have warned that the Rohingya face persecution if they are returned to Myanmar.
"If we are being too strict we will look bad in the eyes of the international community. But at the same time we have to protect our national interest," Mr Chalerm said.
He said the option of setting up a temporary camp to house the Rohingya would depend on the number of migrants being held in Thailand.
About the author
Writer: Wassana Nanuam and Patsara Jikkham