The ASEAN needs to jointly address the current refugee issue before it becomes a humanitarian catastrophe, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said on May 16.

The Prime Minister was quoted by local media as saying that Malaysia respects the ASEAN principles in which an ASEAN member state do not interfere in internal affairs of any other countries in the region.

However, when a certain problem has spread and negatively affected other ASEAN nations and possibly outside ASEAN, a solution through an ASEAN forum and cooperation with other parties is needed, he said.

Najib said the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon voiced concern over the issue when talking with him via telephone on early May 16.

He said he told the UN leader that it is not only an ASEAN issue but also a global humanitarian issue that must be taken seriously by all nations.

The Malaysian PM Najib made the call as there is an ongoing influx of thousands of Bangladeshi and Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya people fleeing to Malaysia and Indonesia.

Over 750 illegal refugees were rescued on May 15 when their boat sank off the east coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. The same day, Thailand discovered more than 100 migrants on a southern island.

The countries provided the boatpeople with foods and water but refused to allow them to land.

About 8,000 people are estimated to be stranded on overcrowded boats without adequate food, water and sanitation.

Thailand has called for a regional meeting on May 29 to come up with measures ending the influx of boatpeople.-VNA