MALAYSIA yesterday expressed its willingness to help Thailand find a long-term peace solution for its troubled south, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said.
He said his Thai counterpart, Yingluck Shinawatra, had requested Malaysia to provide “whatever assistance and cooperation” it could to help in Thailand’s efforts to engage the militants.
“We both agreed this is a domestic matter for Thailand and the people in the south must not seek a separate state. They must also reject violence and extremism. They must be loyal Thai citizens and loyal to the king of Thailand.
“Within those fundamental parameters, we must endeavour to find workable solutions in terms of greater participation in the economic activities of the people in the south and on issues close to their hearts, like education, religion and cultural matters.
“Malaysia is ready to assist Thailand in whatever way possible so that there will be a long-term peace solution in the south,” he said after signing a joint statement on general cooperation between the two governments here yesterday.
Plagued by unrest since 2004, including a spate of bombings by separatists that have left more than 5,000 dead, the 97-month-long conflict in the region has been a thorn in the Thai government’s side.
It began when suspected separatists resumed their armed campaign for independence for the three southern provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala, eight years ago.
Resolving the conflict was among the myriad of issues discussed during Yingluck’s first official one-day working visit to the country since taking office in August last year.
She was accorded an official welcome before she and her delegation had a closed-door meeting with Najib and a Malaysian delegation.
The two leaders, Najib said, agreed to reinvigorate existing bilateral mechanisms, including the Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation, Joint Development Strategy for Border Areas, Joint Trade Committee, General Border Committee and the annual mutual consultations.
He said Thailand was currently the country’s second largest trade partners in Asean, with total trade valued at RM69.4 billion. Trade had grown by 13 per cent last year when compared with the previous year.
About 400 Malaysian firms had invested in Thailand.
The two prime ministers agreed to further explore cooperation in the automotive industry, managing the rubber industry, particularly in border areas, operations in food and energy securities, tourism, and the oil and gas sector.
Six additional areas will be explored, in particular the halal industry.
Najib said there were proposals for the construction of two bridges linking Rantau Panjang and Sungai Golok and Pengkalan Kubor and Takbai. There were also plans for the development of the Customs, Immigration and Quarantine complex at Bukit Kayu Hitam (Kedah) and Sadao in Thailand.
Yingluck was also keen in facilitating the use of passes between both two countries.
Najib said he also discussed problems relating to dual citizenship and agreed Malaysia should compare its database with the Thais to find a resolution.
Yingluck said Malaysia was set to chair Asean in 2015 and Thailand was confident the Asean community would be in good hands.
“We plan to strengthen our cooperation, promote trade and investment, and enhance security cooperation along our common borders.”
Source : New Straits Times