RANTAU PANJANG - Malaysia is mulling a plan to set up a military camp at the Kelantan-Thai border in its eastern border town of Rantau Panjang.
Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said he will ask Army chief General Zulkiple Kassim to study the proposal to set up the camp with 1,700 troops stationed there, the New Straits Times quoted him as saying yesterday when speaking at an Umno function.
"(If approved), the Defence Ministry will use the camp to house some 1,700 soldiers from the Border Regiment," Datuk Seri Hishammuddin said. "The ministry will consider the request by Rantau Panjang Umno division head Datuk Abdullah Mat Yasim, who said this will strengthen border safety."
The border around the shopping town of Rantau Panjang town is largely demarcated by the meandering Sungai Golok, called Kolok river in Thailand.
The area is rife with smuggling, with smugglers bringing up Malaysian palm oil and petrol to Thailand to be sold at higher prices, and carrying down rice, teeshirts and kitchen utensils for sale in Malaysia.
Adding to the security headache, many Malay Muslims who live on one side of the border often have relatives on the other side, and some use the river or jungle tracks to traverse the border area for regular visits.
Thailand in June started deploying 24-hour patrols in Narathiwat and Yala provinces bordering Malaysia, following news of the capture of a terrorist cell involving Malaysian militants who smuggled weapons across the border.
Malaysian police in May announced that it has busted a three-man cell linked to Islamic State in Iraq and Syria that smuggled weapons into Malaysia, the media reported.
The cell had reportedly been smuggling weapons into Malaysia from Thailand and building up a stockpile for at least a year to prepare for attacks in the country and abroad.
The March arrests were the first time the Malaysian authorities uncovered weapon-smuggling by militants linked to ISIS.