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Najib and Abhisit to reach out to Thailand’s restive south

By Tuesday June 9th, 2009 No Comments

PUTRAJAYA: Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and his Thai counterpart Abhisit Vejjajiva have agreed to go to the ground and visit religious schools in southern Thailand to ease tensions there.

Their hope is to send “the right signal” to the locals in the area.

This will take place on the sidelines of the annual consultative meeting between leaders of the two countries to be hosted by Thailand this year.

Najib said the decision for him and Abhisit to visit religious schools in southern Thailand was an indication of their willingness to work closely together to find a solution for the troubled south.

“We are even (willing) to go down to the ground and talk to the people so that the right message be transmitted to the people there,” Najib said at a joint press conference with Abhisit.

The Thai Prime Minister, who led a delegation of 38 ministers and officials, including his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban and Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, was here for a one-day visit. This was their third bilateral meeting.

Najib said Malaysia remained optimistic that the situation in southern Thailand would improve.

However, he stressed that Malaysia was only assisting Thailand to resolve the problems “at the invitation of the Thai government.”

On dual citizenship, the Prime Minister said both governments have decided to let the respective authorities look into technical difficulties – which was to set up a database – before the problem could be resolved.

Abhisit said his visit to Malaysia was “to reaffirm the strong partnership and strengthen co-operation between close neighbours that are sharing borders.”

“Our coming visit to religious schools in the southern province will reaffirm our commitment to peace and stability, to send the right message to the people and to build (their) confidence,” he said.

Meanwhile, Malaysia’s proposed oil pipeline project stretching from Kedah to Songkhla has been referred to Thailand’s Energy Ministry and its energy policy committee “for consideration”.

Najib said they had discussed many issues including investments, adding that both countries decided to continue supporting investments from Malaysian companies in Thailand and vice-versa.

“There is one particular project which is significant – the SKS Development pipeline project from Kota Perdana (in Bukit Kayu Hitam) that is under consideration by the Thai government,” he said.

SKS was earlier reported to be investing about RM33bil for an oil refinery plant to be located on a 809ha site in Kota Perdana.

The company will build a jetty off Kuala Jerlun to pump crude oil transported by ships from the Middle East to a 50km-long pipeline which will channel the oil to the refinery in Kota Perdana. SKS will then route the refined oil to Songkhla in Thailand via the trans-Thai pipeline.

Najib hoped the global financial crisis would not adversely affect trade and investments between Malaysia and Thailand. Last year, total trade between both countries stood at US$18.2bil (RM63.7bil).

Abhisit said both governments could expand their co-operation in the energy and the halal industry, adding that Thailand’s agriculture and agro industry could be tapped to help meet Malaysia’s aim to become a halal hub.

Source : The Star

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