Malaysia, Thailand Reaffirm Commitment to Deep South Peace

Somchai Kwankijsawet
160909-TH-MY-PMs-1000.jpg Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha (left) walks with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak as they review an honor guard, upon Najib’s arrival at Government House in Bangkok, Sept. 9, 2016.
Nontarat Phaicharoen/BenarNews

The prime ministers of Malaysia and Thailand vowed Friday in Bangkok that their governments would keep working together to resolve a separatist insurgency in the Thai Deep South as well as strengthen cross-border security ties.

The comments came a week after Malaysia hosted the latest round of informal talks between Thailand’s government and southern Thai insurgents, and despite a spate of deadly bombings in southern Thailand over the past month claimed by the largest rebel group in the Muslim, Malay-speaking region.

“[I]n the context of security, Malaysia continues to be willing to provide our role as a facilitator to help in the peace process in the south. I, once again, reaffirm our commitment – and also our understanding – that this is a Thai domestic matter and will proceed according to the framework and guidelines given by the Thai government,” Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said during a joint news conference late Friday.

“We agreed on the issues of security, trade, the border economy as well as the peace talks for the Deep South,” Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha told the news conference that followed bilateral talks in Bangkok.

‘They move between our countries’

The two prime ministers said they agreed that their countries would share intelligence in collaborating to fight global terrorism and cross-border criminality such as human trafficking and smuggling.

“These are very, very important matters for us to work closely together because some of the perpetrators, they move between our two countries. So the security agencies need to cooperate closely together so that we will be able to apprehend them and bring them to justice,” Najib added.

The border region between Malaysia and Thailand is known to be rife with criminal activity, and southern Thai insurgents are believed to crisscross the frontier regularly. Thais suspect that people on the Malaysian side of the border harbor and aid southern rebels.

“Today, we must strongly cooperate in solving [all] problems, because the problems inside Thailand cause impact on Malaysia as well. We will use proper methods, such as intelligence exchange, information crosschecks, and immigration procedures,” Prayuth added.

The two PMs agreed to move ahead with exploring joint plans to build a wall or fence to secure their common border, according to Najib.

“[M]alaysia will continue to help in terms of vocational training for some of the young people in the south,” Najib told reporters. Prime Minister Prayuth has requested us to help in terms of religious schools in the south so that they are able to study both academic as well as religious subjects.”

Alleged BRN involvement in bombings questioned

On Tuesday, the commander of a combat unit with the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) – the largest and deadliest of southern insurgent groups – told BenarNews that his unit had carried out a bombing that day that killed a four-year-old schoolgirl, and several other attacks over the past month.

The attacks claimed by the BRN member killed a total of 10 people and included 11 bombings over two days at tourist areas outside of the Deep South.

Thai officials had earlier announced that the bombings at tourist areas in the upper south were connected to people from the Deep South, but denied that the attacks represented a widening of the insurgency.

On Friday, the head of the Thai army questioned the accuracy of the report during a visit to Pattani, one of the provinces in the Deep South.

“Re a report citing the BRN as saying that the latest bomb and the bomb attacks in seven [upper south] provinces were the work of BRN, it is not quite right,” Army Commander-in-Chief Gen. Teerachai Nakwanich told reporters.

“Don’t get confused because the police’s investigation has made great progress and all the clues are pointing to gang landers in the areas,” he said.

MARA Patani, the panel representing southern Thai rebel groups and factions in informal peace talks with the Thai government, including BRN, on Thursday condemned the school bombing on its Facebook page.

“Regarding the bombings in Taba School on the morning of 6/9/16, MARA Patani condemns the violence that involved death / injury to civilians, including children. We sympathize with all the victims and urge the authorities to investigate the incident thoroughly to identify the real perpetrators,” the statement said.

“Mara Patani adheres to conflict resolution through peaceful dialogue. We call on all parties to act rationally and not make soft targets victims of the conflict in the future.”


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