From September 8-9, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak will visit Thailand. In light of recent concerns about violence and transnational crime, border issues are set to dominate talks between the two countries.
Both sides are set to ink an agreement to construct a border fence in a bid to stem decades of smuggling and trafficking. The two countries have been stepping up efforts to tackle transnational crimes following growing international attention to the problem, prompted by the discovery of mass graves in both countries last year (See: “Malaysia, Thailand Agree to Build Border Wall Amid Trafficking Woes”).
In an indicator of ongoing cooperation ahead of Najib’s visit, Thai Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwan also confirmed following a meeting with Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi that Thailand had agreed to extradite ten Thai trafficking suspects wanted by Malaysia. Zahid said that the extradition would allow Malaysia to prosecute more individuals to show its commitment to tackling trafficking.
Also on the agenda will be the issue of dual citizenship. Thailand in particular has been concerned that dual citizenship holders have been involved in criminal activity in southern Thailand, where a raging insurgency has left over 6,000 people dead since 2004. A series of bombings and arson attacks aimed at tourist hotspots in the country’s south earlier this month has once again focused attention on the southern Thailand insurgency, which has in fact been waxing and waning for decades (See: “More Than Words Needed on Southern Thailand“).
After meeting with Zahid in Putrajaya on Monday, Prawit said that the two countries had agreed to greater cooperation, including exchanging information on dual citizenship holders and their biometric records. He also said that Malaysia had been cooperating with Thailand in investigating the recent attacks.
Meanwhile, Thai officials have also confirmed that peace talks with MARA Pattani, an umbrella body representing several groups linked to separatists in southern Thailand, are set to begin on September 2 in Kuala Lumpur with Malaysia’s facilitation (See: “Southern Thailand Peace Talks to Resume (Again) in Malaysia“). Several rounds of such talks have occurred before to no avail, and the most recent one was stalled following disagreements between the two sides earlier this year.