PUTRAJAYA - Malaysia is pressing for an urgent discussion with Myanmar and Bangladesh over the large number of illegal immigrants coming to Langkawi.
According to Home Ministry secretary-general Datuk Alwi Ibrahim, they had found elements of human trafficking over the unprecedented massive landing of the illegals.
As a step to ensure that the incidents were not repeated, Alwi
said that Malaysia would call for a discussion with Bangladesh and Myanmar.
He added that Thailand would also be involved in the matter since the cases of trafficking of migrants from Bangladesh and Myanmar were also through the Malaysia-Thailand border.
Meanwhile, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation's (OIC) Special Representative on Rohingya Muslims Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar said a human tragedy
of "catastrophic proportions" looms if the influx of Rohingya refugees into Malaysia is not dealt with immediately.
ASEAN should address the issue urgently.
"This problem must be discussed in ASEAN, especially among the countries involved, namely Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Myanmar.
"Otherwise, it is going to turn into a catastrophe and a human tragedy," said the long-serving former foreign minister in Kuala Lumpur.
Over 1,000 illegal immigrants, including Rohingya, were dumped by human traffickers on the shores of Langkawi while 900 others were rescued off the coast of Aceh, Indonesia, over the last few days.
Syed Hamid said Myanmar's move to take back the temporary identity papers issued to the embattled Muslim minority and their continued oppression by extremist groups likely triggered the recent exodus.
The identity papers, known as white cards, were issued to the Rohingya but the Myanmar government decided that these would expire on March 31.
This followed protests in the country against the government's proposal to accord the Muslim minority voting rights in a proposed referendum on the country's constitution.
"A big flood of people are now fleeing. If the whole lot of them decides to flee, we could see a repeat of the Vietnamese boat people problem," said Syed Hamid, referring to the wave of refugees from Vietnam who landed on Malaysian shores in the 1970s and 1980s.
Some two million Vietnamese fled the country after the Communists won the war. It took Malaysia
decades to resettle them in third world countries.
Syed Hamid said it was not right to expect Malaysia to continue absorbing the current influx of refugees when the source of the problem was Myanmar.
"Bodies such as the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees cannot talk about Malaysia alone to solve this problem.
"Myanmar has to be told that it must not cause its people to flee the country."
Syed Hamid, who is currently president of the human rights and tolerance non-governmental group Humaniti Malaysia, said the Rohingyas' situation was a human rights and human trafficking problem.
It also involved corruption as there were staging areas in the Thai-Malaysia border area where syndicates trafficked the refugees, he said.
"We have been trying to work this out with the Myanmar government but it is an uphill task. We need the support of the ASEAN countries."
At the 26th ASEAN Summit in Kuala Lumpur last month, Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman said the Rohingya problem needed to be resolved within ASEAN and could no longer be considered Myanmar's internal issue.