BANGKOK – A day before Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak is set to meet his counterpart Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha in Bangkok, Thai officials said on Thursday, Thailand and Malaysia will discuss plans to build a wall along their shared border.
On Friday the Malaysian Prime Minister is to meet Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha on an official visit that will focus on security cooperation and investment.
Thai foreign ministry officials said the wall along the 640-km (398-mile) Thai-Malay border is on the agenda for the meeting.
Colonel Yutthanam Petchmuang, a spokesman for Thailand’s Internal Security Operations Command told Reuters that the wall is still at the memorandum of understanding phase.
People-trafficking and the smuggling of drugs and weapons are among the transnational crimes that have flourished along the 640-km (398-mile) Thai-Malay border, until a crackdown by Thailand last year disrupted regional trafficking routes.
The Thai-Malay border has also been a site for the smuggling of weapons, drugs and illegal oil. After taking power in a May 2014, Thailand’s Military junta promised what it called a “zero tolerance” policy of human trafficking and launched a nationwide crackdown on crime.
Two issues in particular have spurred the interest of Malaysia and Thailand in building a border wall, said Srisompop Jitpiromsri, director of Deep South Watch.
“The first is to stop the flow of illegal goods, whether it is petrol, drugs or human trafficking,” he told Reuters.
“The second reason is that insurgents operating in Thailand regularly cross the border and use Malaysia as a safety base.”
Yet it remains unclear how far the wall will reduce crime.
“There are still many logistical issues to address before building the wall,” Srisompop said. “It’s a tremendously long area.”
Thailand’s three southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat were once part of an independent Malay Muslim sultanate until they were annexed by Thailand in 1909.
By Amy Sawitta Lefevre – Reuters
(Additional reporting by Cod Satrusayang in Bangkok; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)