Thailand and Malaysia agree to peace efforts in Southern Thailand

Thailand and Malaysia agree to peace efforts in Southern Thailand
Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, right, and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak chat.

Thailand and Malaysia have agreed to base their peace efforts to end violence in the far South on three principles - a period without violence, representation of all concerned parties, and a conclusion with all parties united in their demands, Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak said yesterday.

He spoke after meeting with Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha, who yesterday made his first official visit to Kuala Lumpur as Thai premier.

Malaysia's state-run news agency Bernama quoted Najib as saying: "The three principles were a period of no violence; all parties being represented in the peace talks; and all parties in southern Thailand agreeing to a single united demand to be put to the Thai government."

Elaborating on the three principles, Najib said that firstly there must be a period of no violence and respect for the law. "If the parties in the South respect the law, then these parties have nothing to fear," he said.

He quoted General Prayut as saying the Thai army could even reduce its presence in the South if violence was discontinued.

"Secondly, we agreed that it is important that not just one party but all parties be represented in the peace process," he said, adding that Malaysia and Thailand would try to talk to all parties in the South, not just one or two groups.

Thirdly, all demands would be collated and put up as one united demand, he said. In other words, all the parties must agree to the list of demands or requests they wish to put forward to the Thai government, he said.

"That (united demand) would be the basis for starting the actual substantive negotiations with the Thai government," he said.

Najib said Malaysia and Thailand would reinvigorate the peace process and restart their efforts based on the three principles.

"Malaysia will continue (the peace process) and the Thai government has stated categorically that Malaysia is the only country they will work with on the peace process," he said.

The talk about the peace dialogue in the South had been suspended after Prayut seized power on May 22. Yesterday's talk was the first since Prayut became prime minister.

Prayut told Team Thailand members - Thai officials working in Malaysia - that the Thai Army's advisory chief, General Aksara Kerdpol would be assigned to lead the Thai negotiating team in the peace dialogue.

"In the meeting with the Malaysian premier, we agreed that peace should be restored in the South to attract investors to the areas. All parties concerned should talk to find the solution to the problems," he said.

'Tough to set timeframe'

Asked about the timeframe for the peace process, Najib said it was hard to create a limit for such an effort.

"When you sit down and discuss such complex matters, it will take time. It is important we give them impetus based on these three principles," he said.

On terrorists using border passes to enter either country, Najib said ministers in the two countries had been tasked to work out an answer to the matter.

"Malaysia and Thailand have agreed to work to strengthen cooperation in addressing the problem of extremism and militancy," he said.

On dual citizenship, Najib said Malaysia and Thailand agreed to resolve the issue, but it was a long-standing problem.

"There is not much movement. In this regard, I did express our (Malaysia's) need and desire to work closely to resolve this problem," he said.

Najib described his discussions with Prayut as productive and having covered various aspects of bilateral relations.

"We both agreed that the state of bilateral relations remains very strong, but we should look at ways to strengthen our cooperation," he said.

Internal Security Operations Command spokesman Col Banpot Poolpian, meanwhile, said the insurgents wanted to discredit Prayut's credibility during his visit to Malaysia.

They had hung anti-coup banners, set fires and planted explosives in a total of 29 areas in Narathiwat, Yala, Pattani and Songkhla province. No one was injured in the incidents.

"They just want to discredit the premier who would discuss the southern problems with the Malaysian authorities. They also wanted to draw attention from the world community," he said.

Some banners said 'Prayut is a coup-maker - so how can people trust him?'

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