BANGI, Malaysia — Former ASEAN secretary-general Dr Surin Pitsuwan has called for the immediate setting up of a tripartite coordination mechanism between its ten member states, Myanmar and the United Nations to end the violence against the Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state.

In making the call, he said this core group, which Jakarta (Indonesia) should take the lead through its ASEAN Humanitarian Assistance (AHA) centre, was to facilitate trust, confidence and cooperation to put an end to the vicious cycle of violence and to provide security and assistance to all those in need.

Surin, who is also Thailand’s former foreign minister, said the international community had a responsibility to undertake concerted efforts to prevent further escalation of the crisis, since some 480,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh since violence broke out in Myanmar on Aug 25.

“I had done it once (tripartite mechanism), on behalf of ASEAN for two and a half years after Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar in May 2008 (causing devastation). This mechanism is very much needed to remind the authorities in Myanmar that it must take determined action to put an end to this unresolved plight of the Rohingya.

“The pain and grievances of this ethnic minority have gone on for too long and are becoming a factor in regional destabilisation and insecurity. As an ASEAN person, I think it could effect and give a serious implication to ASEAN’s economic growth and peace.

He told this to Bernama after delivering his lecture on ‘Good Governance: Challenges for the ASEAN Community at the 2nd Chancellor Tuanku Muhriz Lecture at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), here, today.

The lecture series was graced by Yang Dipertuan Besar of Negeri Sembilan, Tuanku Muhriz Tuanku Munawir and Tunku Ampuan Besar Negeri Sembilan, Tuanku Aishah Rohani Tengku Besar Mahmud. Tuanku Muhriz is also UKM chancellor. Also present was vice-chancellor Prof Dr Noor Azlan Ghazali.

Surin said the Rohingya ethnic issue could no longer be described as merely a domestic problem for Myanmar, and urged for an amendment to the legal constitution in order to accommodate the fleeing Rohingya, who were not educated in the Burmese language, and did not own a house registration number or birth certificate to have a safe place in Myanmar.

“I salute Malaysia’s commitment and stand to tell Myanmar to stop the atrocities against the Rohingya and I disagree with the ASEAN stand as the current chair, the Philippines has appealed to all sides to avoid action that would worse the situation. I think our responsibility is collective in the form of humanitarian assistance. We cannot argue this is an internal and sovereignty affair in an integrated world.

“The region will become more fragile because any member state’s problem can spill over to our neighbouring country anytime or even next day.

“ASEAN should and can help. For example, each country can participate and contribute by providing humanitarian assistance, like Malaysia (medical), Indonesia (housing), Thailand (education) and Singapore (food). This is because, in the end, every Rohingya has a right to be inside Myanmar, and there has to be long- term coordination and cooperation,” he added.