Malaysia, Thailand to share more intel to secure border

Malaysia's Mr Najib (second from left) and Thailand's Gen Prayut with their wives, Madam Rosmah Mansor (left) and Mrs Naraporn Chan-o-cha, at Government House in Bangkok yesterday.
Malaysia's Mr Najib (second from left) and Thailand's Gen Prayut with their wives, Madam Rosmah Mansor (left) and Mrs Naraporn Chan-o-cha, at Government House in Bangkok yesterday.PHOTO: REUTERS

Najib, Prayut discuss building border wall to deter transnational terrorism, smuggling

BANGKOK • The leaders of Thailand and Malaysia agreed yesterday to increase intelligence-sharing on security and to move forward in possibly building a border wall to combat transnational terrorism and smuggling.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak told reporters that security remained "a very important matter" for both countries.

"We will continue to work closely together to combat the threat of global terrorism, human trafficking and transnational crime, including violent extremism," Datuk Seri Najib said at a press conference alongside his Thai counterpart, General Prayut Chan-o-cha.

"These are very, very important matters for us to work on closely together because some of the perpetrators, they move between our two countries," he said.

"We both face security issues, including the fight against terrorism, human trafficking and illegal smuggling, that is why we need to address these issues seriously," said Gen Prayut.

Mr Najib, who was on a state visit to Thailand, said both sides had discussed the construction and extension of a border wall, with details to be worked out.

SHARED CHALLENGES

We both face security issues, including the fight against terrorism, human trafficking and illegal smuggling, that is why we need to address these issues seriously.

GENERAL PRAYUT CHAN-O-CHA, on working with Malaysia.

"The matter is under consideration, but we need to determine the physical dimensions of the wall or fence as well as the sharing of the costs," he said.

People-trafficking and the smuggling of contraband, including drugs and petrol, flourished along the Thai-Malay border for years until a crackdown by Thai officials on human traffickers caused some of the routes to shut down last year.

Analysts say that separatist insurgents operating in Thailand's deep south use Malaysia as a base to plan and launch their attacks.

Mr Najib's visit follows three deadly bomb attacks in southern Thailand over the past month, including a wave of bombings in tourist towns in August which Thai police have linked to Muslim separatists.

Analysts say the attacks were carried out by a separatist insurgent group known as Barisan Revolusi Nasional after it was left out of peace talks between the Thai government and another separatist umbrella group in Malaysia.

Thailand's three southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat used to be part of an independent Malay Muslim sultanate, until they were annexed by Thailand in 1909.

Since 2004, Muslim separatists operating in the area have waged a bloody insurgency which has claimed more than 6,500 lives, according to Deep South Watch, which monitors the conflict.

Mr Najib reaffirmed Malaysia's commitment to hosting nascent peace negotiations between the Thai government and a group that claims to represent the insurgents.

However, the talks have yet to bear fruit and the recent uptick in violence suggests that the rebel negotiators have little sway over fighters on the ground.

The two leaders also discussed expanding trade between the two countries and bolstering transportation links.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 10, 2016, with the headline 'Malaysia, Thailand to share more intel to secure border'. Print Edition | Subscribe