Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha yesterday met Prime Minister Najib Razak in his introductory visit to Malaysia, discussing free-falling rubber prices and how to revive peace talks with rebels in Thailand's restive south.
Datuk Seri Najib told reporters that the two neighbours would cooperate to stabilise the price of natural rubber, which has fallen to five-year lows on the back of low demand from China's slowing economy.
"Both countries also agreed to include Vietnam in the process, as well as to explore ways and means to increase the natural rubber usage in other new products," he told reporters after receiving the Thai leader who was on a one-day visit.
Mr Prayuth led a coup in May to oust the administration of former PM Yingluck Shinawatra and took office in August.
Rubber had peaked at RM16.70 per kg in February 2011 but closed today under RM5. The two countries and Indonesia produce about 70 per cent of the world's rubber, and Mr Najib said yesterday all three nations needed to work together to support latex prices.
Mr Prayuth's regime has also indicated it favours reviving peace talks with Muslim rebels in the south along the border with Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur hosted talks between the Thai government and the rebels under the previous Thai administration.
Mr Prayuth told reporters in Bangkok later that Malaysia will continue to be the facilitator in future talks. But recent news that the Thai government was distributing more weapons to security outfits in the south has raised alarm in the area.
The insurgent groups yesterday launched a protest against holding talks with the post-coup government, according to Thailand's The Nation newspaper.
Mr Najib said separately that before peace talks could begin with separatist groups, a period of no violence was needed.
"All parties need to respect the law and the Thailand Prime Minister has agreed that the army could reduce its presence," Malaysia's New Straits Times quoted him as saying. Last year's talks made little headway.
In Kuala Lumpur, activists gathered at the Thai Embassy yesterday to protest against the hosting of Mr Prayuth by Mr Najib.
Thailand is Malaysia's fifth largest trading partner, with two-way business amounting to RM78.6 billion (S$30.3 billion) last year.
This article was first published on Dec 2, 2014.
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