Kuala Lumpur - Malaysia does not want a massive refugee problem at its doorstep. However, due to humanitarian reasons, it is not prepared to "chase away" the 131 Thai-Muslims who have entered Kelantan illegally, said Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar.
"It's not just simply packing them up and sending them back. There is a need for investigation on our side. We cannot just chase people away," Mr Syed Hamid said on Sept 2.
He said Malaysia would only give the Thais temporary protection until such a time when they are willing to return.
The 131, including 43 children, were taken into custody on Aug 31 by police in Kelantan for entering the country illegally. The Thai-Muslims claim that they fear being harmed by Thai security forces who have been locked in a series of skirmishes with Muslim separatists in the area.
The Malaysian minister also said that the Thai government should take the initiative to win the hearts and minds of the six million Muslims in southern Thailand.
He said the Thai authorities should avoid using force since it had proved to be ineffective in solving the region's troubles. Mr Syed Hamid also called on the Thai government to hold negotiations with Muslim leaders in the deep South.
He said a spillover into Malaysia due to the instability in southern Thailand is "real" because there are more than six million Muslims living in the region.
Mr Syed Hamid said: "We are concerned because we don’t want a flight of refugees into the country."
* Bangkok urged to win hearts and minds of Thai Muslims (Bernama, Sept 3)
* Keep them safe, Thais urged (New Straits Times, Sept 3)