Security tops the agenda for Prayut-Najib meeting

Security tops the agenda for Prayut-Najib meeting

Increasing bilateral trade also a priority

Security men play the roles of Mr Najib and Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha as security forces on Thursday honed procedures for Friday's official visit to Government House by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. (Photo by Thiti Wannamontha)
Security men play the roles of Mr Najib and Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha as security forces on Thursday honed procedures for Friday's official visit to Government House by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. (Photo by Thiti Wannamontha)

Border security cooperation, measures to combat terrorism, particularly the threat of Islamic State-linked elements and extremists, and a crackdown on human trafficking by sea will be at the top of the agenda in Friday's talks between Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his Malaysian counterpart.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, accompanied by his wife Rosmah Mansor, and his delegation, arrived in Bangkok Thursday at the start of a six-day visit and for the 6th Malaysia-Thailand Annual Consultation.

Col Athisit Chainuwat, assistant government spokesman, said that the meeting is aimed at strengthening ties between the neighbouring countries on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties.

The topics to be discussed include joint border management, cooperation in the fight against transnational crime, human trafficking, cyber security, marine security cooperation, piracy, terrorism and extremism, the spokesman said.

The two countries, which share a roughly 650-kilometre-long border, will promote "moderatism" and share information and experiences on the rehabilitation of those who have become disillusioned with terrorism.

Cooperation to tackle the insurgency in the deep South of Thailand will be high on the agenda as Malaysia has been playing a key role as the facilitator for peace talks between Thai authorities and groups believed to be behind the southern unrest, the spokesman said.

"One example of this is the role Malaysia stands ready to play in helping the Thai government achieve peace in southern Thailand. This is a major responsibility, and one we take very seriously, but we are honoured to be the facilitator of the peace process," the Malaysian prime minister wrote in an opinion piece in today's edition of the Bangkok Post.

"We have an agreed goal of raising bilateral trade to US$30 billion (one trillion baht) by 2018, which will create new jobs and support families in both countries," he added. The two countries' bilateral trade value reached US$22 billion last year.

The discussion is highly relevant for both sides as Malaysia is seeking closer cooperation with Thailand in "combing out the elements linked to the radical Islamic State terrorist group" while Thailand also wants more tangible collaboration to stop the violence in the deep South, said Col Athisit.

While Kuala Lumpur seeks reassurances from Thailand that the talks with Mara Patani continue, the Thai side would like to raise the issue of dual citizenship as many insurgents have taken refuge in Malaysia, official sources said.

"It will greatly help if Malaysia can assist in pinning down the leaders of the militant movements," said the sources who work in counter-insurgency.

The dual citizenship issue had previously been raised as a concern by then premier Surayud Chulanont to Malaysia in the hopes that it could screen out the insurgents but efforts to tackle the problems have not progressed.

Malaysian officials said that Thailand would need to come up with not only the names but fingerprints or photos of the people they want in order for the Malaysian side to conduct further checks or act on the information.

Thailand expected that Malaysia would demonstrate more of an effort in stopping the movement of the insurgents and condemn the deadly attacks which have escalated in not only the deep South but the upper South of Thailand as well, official sources said.

A Malaysian official said that Malaysia is also concerned about some Bangladeshis pretending to be Rohingya migrant workers sneaking into Malaysia via the Thai border.

"Tomorrow's Malaysia-Thailand Annual Consultation is important for the top leaders and senior officials to strengthen relations and cooperation between the two neighbours," the Bernama news agency quoted Malaysia's ambassador to Thailand Datuk Nazirah Hussain as saying Thursday.

The two countries will sign memorandums of cooperation on several projects, said Col Athisit.

They include the "rubber city" project in Songkhla province, aimed at spurring natural rubber consumption at home to help support falling prices caused by excess supply, the promotion of the halal food industry, and education for Muslim students in the restive South.

The Thai and Malaysian prime ministers will witness the signing of the memorandums of cooperation.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon previously said Thailand and Malaysia will also sign a pact to build a fence along their border, work together to deal with transnational crime, and problems concerning dual nationality in the southernmost provinces.

Gen Prawit spoke after returning from a visit to Malaysia on Aug 29 to discuss security cooperation with Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Home Affairs Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

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