The leaders of Thailand and Malaysia have agreed to enhance relations and cooperation across various aspects, including border trade and tourism.
The agreement to deepen ties and tighten cooperation was reached as Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin and his Malaysian counterpart Anwar Ibrahim met on Monday for a working visit at the new Sadao customs checkpoint in Songkhla.
The meeting was a follow-up to Mr Srettha's visit to Malaysia on Oct 11, with joint border development being the main focus of the talks.
The attendees included Tourism and Sports Minister Sudawan Wangsupakitkosol, Transport Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit, and Malaysia's Minister of Works Alexander Nanta Linggi and Minister of Tourism Tiong King Sing.
Both sides expressed willingness to advance their cooperation, especially in joint border development, with Mr Srettha proposing a set of proposals to bolster trade and investments.
The Thai prime minister asked Malaysia to host the Joint Trade Commission meeting at the commerce minister level to resolve existing problems and pursue cooperation. He urged Malaysia to expedite the Memorandum of Understanding on Cross-Border Transport of Goods. He also encouraged closer cooperation between local chambers of commerce to facilitate joint action plans to increase trade volume, tourism and border development.
On tourism development and cooperation, Thailand agreed to temporarily exempt Malaysian tourists from filling TM 6 immigration clearance forms at the Sadao checkpoint from Nov 1 to April 30, 2024, to facilitate the travel of Malaysian tourists.
On agriculture, the Thai government said it also plans to set up a department under the Industry Ministry to promote Thailand's halal food products.
Both agreed to resolve wildlife smuggling across the border with a draft agreement to fight wildlife trade to be reviewed in February next year.
To promote the movement of goods and people, both sides agreed to push ahead with a road project connecting Sadao checkpoint with the Bukit Kayu Hitam checkpoint and a bridge project linking Narathiwat's Sungai Kolok to Kelantan's Rantau Panjang.
Following the meeting, Mr Srettha wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that both nations agreed to increase bilateral trade to US$30 million (1 billion baht) by 2025. He said the setting up of a One Stop Service CIQ at the busy Sadao checkpoint would mark the first step, and completing the road and bridge projects would boost trade and tourism.
In the 2023 fiscal year, the checkpoint collected 7.69 billion baht in revenue and registered trade volumes of 428.9 billion baht. The number of people passing through from Oct 1 last year to Sept 30 this year was 5,358,270, with 656,401 trucks.
In related news, Mr Srettha on Monday signed an order setting up the "The Peace Dialogue Panel" headed by Chatchai Bangchuad, a deputy secretary-general of the National Security Council (NSC), to drive the peace process.
The panel members comprise the secretary-general of the Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre (SBPAC) and representatives from the Foreign Ministry, the Justice Ministry, the National Security Council and the Internal Security Operations Command's Region 4.