Thailand, Malaysia cooperate against insurgency
KUALA LUMPUR – Visiting Thai Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont met Tuesday with his Malaysian counterpart on bilateral cooperation in economic and social development on the shared border with high hopes to turn over a new leaf in Thailand's restive South.
Prior to their annual talk Wednesday on Malaysia's northern resort island of Penang, Gen. Surayud Chulanont told journalists here during his official visit to Thailand's southern neighbour that he had discussed in principle with Malaysian prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi social and economic cooperation in Thailand's Muslim-predominant southern border provinces and Malaysia's northern border region.
In addition, further development, particularly in the "Growth Triangle" was also discussed. Both agreed to extend cooperation in the petrochemical industry in the area, said the Thai premier, adding that details of the discussion will be featured during their annual meeting Wednesday.
The Indonesia–Malaysia–Thailand Growth Triangle (IMT-GT) was established in 1993 to promote a growth area under a new trilateral scheme of sub-regional economic cooperation. Its focus is on investment, technology transfer, production cooperation and the use of natural resources in southern Thailand, northern Malaysia and most of Sumatra Island. It also seeks to promote development of infrastructure and transportation linkages in the triangle area.
"The cooperation is part of our effort to boost understanding and send a clear signal to those who instigate violence in the region that their methods are outdated. it is time to change their course to help develop the area," the interim Thai prime minister stressed.
Regarding 130 Thais who have been staying in northern Malaysia since their flight from Thailand's insurgency-plagued south in 2005, Gen. Surayud said it was their own decision whether they want to return home or not.
On August 30, 2005, 131 Thai villagers from Narathiwat fled across the border into Malaysia, citing their fears of safety amid violent unrest in the province and two other neighbouring provinces of Yala and Pattani.
However, one of them who was found to have involved in insurgency in the deep South was sent home in December as requested by the Thai authorities.
The Thai prime minister said he invited his Malaysian counterpart to revisit Thailand to preside over the inauguration ceremony once a bridge linking Bukit Bunga in Malaysia's northern state of Kelantan with Buketa in Thailand's southern Narathiwat province was completed.
The agreement to build the bridge was signed in early 2005. Construction of the bridge is estimated to cost US$2 million. Both sides have agreed to share the expense equally. The bridge should be completed within two years.
It will be the second bridge across the Golok River that forms part of the boundary between the two countries. The first links Rantau Panjang in Kelantan to Sungai Golok town in Thailand. (TNA)