Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s arrival in the kingdom on an official visit produced quick results with the sealing of four energy-related and economic agreements on Thursday.
Accompanied by his wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Mr Anwar is on a two-day visit centred on forging closer economic cooperation and finding more ways to work together to stimulate the post-pandemic economic recovery in the two countries.
Speaking at a news conference after their talks at Government House, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said the two leaders agreed to advance bilateral ties to stimulate economic growth while seeking further engagement in new areas. They also aim to develop the countries’ shared border to make the area a pillar of peace and mutual prosperity.
The two prime ministers also witnessed the signing of four memoranda of understanding to spur cooperation on electrical energy, circular energy and the digital economy, all seen as key to promoting the Bio-Circular-Green (BCG) economic model of both countries and sustainable growth.
The three agreements related to energy were signed by public-sector organisations, and a fourth dealing with the creative economy was signed by Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation and the Digital Economy Promotion Agency of Thailand.
Gen Prayut outlined five areas both countries agreed on.
Connectivity, he said, would be boosted to facilitate cross-border travel by accelerating road construction projects linking Sadao in Songkhla with a Malaysian customs checkpoint and the new Ko Lok bridge.
Second, they agreed to facilitate cross-border trade with the goal of achieving total value of US$30 billion by 2025. They also discussed how to add more value to agricultural products.
Third, they discussed ways to develop the border, such as through a special economic zone to attract long-term investment.
“Today, we have appointed the Joint Development Strategy for Border Areas [JDS] to make a practical working plan within a realistic timeframe. We also discussed supply chains in industries such as rubber, SMEs and mSMEs,” Gen Prayut said.
Finally, the two sides agreed to encourage cooperation in education and scientific and innovative research, and confirmed their commitment to Asean centrality.
Mr Anwar also pledged to “do whatever is required” to facilitate a peaceful solution to the long-simmering insurgency in southern Thailand.
More than 7,300 people have been killed since 2004 in fighting between Thai forces and shadowy groups seeking independence for the predominantly Muslim and ethnically Malay provinces of Narathiwat, Yala, Pattani and parts of Songkhla.
The area was part of the Patani sultanate that Thailand annexed in a 1909 treaty with Britain.
Mr Anwar stressed the insurgency is an internal issue for Thailand but said Malaysia would do whatever it can to help find a peaceful solution to the conflict, starting with appointing Zulkifli Zainal Abidin, 65, a former head of Malaysia’s armed forces, as a facilitator to the process.
“It is our duty as a good neighbour and family to do whatever is required and necessary to facilitate the process,” he said.
Gen Prayut said cooperation would help address the problems in the restive provinces, specifically greater economic development and improved connectivity between the two countries.
Since 2013 Malaysia has helped facilitate peace talks between the separatist groups and Thai government but the process been disrupted, most recently by the pandemic. The latest round of talks resumed last year after a two-year suspension due to the pandemic.