As Asean chair, Malaysia provide protection to refugees who land on its shores, Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) chairperson Hasmy Agam.
Malaysia said it will turn away seaworthy boats carrying hundreds of Rohingya and Bangladeshis, after more than 1,600 of them landed in Langkawi amid regional crackdown on human trafficking.
Hasmy said the crisis and Malaysia position as Asean chair is an opportunity for the government to push for a regional solution for the refugee issue affecting many member states.
"Suhakam is concerned that despite it being a long-standing issue, there are no firm solutions in place for refugee and asylum seekers
"There is therefore an imperative need for a comprehensive approach to deal with the problem, addressing the root causes and other contributory factors with a view to safeguarding the basic human rights of this vulnerable group," he said.
Malaysia is well-placed to do so given the government’s cooperation with UNHCR, the United Nation’s refugee agency, even though the arrangement is now on an ad hoc basis.
"The commission hopes that individuals in need of genuine protection such as refugees, abused and persecuted migrants and victims of trafficking will be screened and accorded the necessary protection," he said.
He said Malaysia should protect those arriving in boats, especially since it is signatory to conventions to protect women and children.
Women and children were among those in the rickety vessels which landed in Langkawi. They are now in immigration detention.
Malaysia legally accepted refugees in 1975, where it accepted up to 40,000 Vietnamese refugees fleeing the Vietnam War.
The boats were then towed to Bidong Island off the coast of Terengganu, where a refugee camp was set up. The camp was closed 1991.