After winning the referendum and setting Thailand on track towards potential elections on 23rd December, Thai PM Surayud Chulanont has gone on to the next step of reconciling the kingdom.
On Tuesday this week, Surayud traveled to Kuala Lumpur to meet Malaysia PM Abdullah Badawi on further bilateral cooperation to bring peace to the restive South. The two leaders then went on to Penangto discuss further social and economic issues concerning both countries.
One of the first things agreed upon was a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on education. Malaysia Education Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein revealed that this MoU was the “outcome of talks between the two leaders in Thailand in February”. The contents of the MoU included “networking between schools in Malaysia and Thailand, particularly those in the southern provinces, covering aspects such as religious education, curriculum as well as student exchange and teacher training programmes”. This paves the way for students and teachers from Southern Thailand to study and be trained inMalaysia. A Thai education official said that “about 100 Thai educators and religious teachers are expected to be sent to Malaysia at the end of this month for training”.
Both leaders are upbeat that Thailand and Malaysia will work well to bring peace and prosperity to the Southern provinces. Badawi exhorted for closer bilateral ties, saying that in addition to educational assistance, Malaysia “had also agreed to provide opportunities such as training for small businessmen in southern Thailand” as well as to “introduce Islamic banking” if and when licences were permitted. Surayud also reinforced Badawi’s comments, urging closer bilateral cooperation between the two countries.
As a further step against regional insecurity through development, the Indonesia–Malaysia–Thailand Growth Triangle (IMT-GT) established in 1993 to “promote a growth area through investment, technology transfer, production cooperation and the use of natural resources in southern Thailand, northern Malaysia and most of Sumatra Island” was discussed. Surayud and Badawi “agreed to extend cooperation in the petrochemical industry in the area”, while stressing that this cooperation means to “send a clear signal to those who instigate violence in the region that their methods are outdated [and] it is time to change their course to help develop the area”.
Turning to his domestic audience, Surayud urged in his meeting with businesspersons, students and the Thai public at the Thai embassy in Kuala Lumpur that national unity was necessary to facilitate all efforts at bringing peace. In support of Surayud’s efforts in Malaysia, the Thai cabinet decided on Wednesday a budget allocation of 969million baht for “the purchase of closed-circuit television cameras” to be installed in the Southern provinces as a security measure. (23 August 2007)
PM: Malaysia-Thailand ties to enter next phase (NST, 23 August 2007)
PM: Social, economic cooperation needed (Bangkok Post, 23 August 2007)
Thailand, Malaysia cooperate against insurgency (Bangkok Post, 22 August 2007)
PM: Unity need to solve southern violence (Bangkok Post, 22 August 2007)
969m baht budget approved for south (Bangkok Post, 22 August 2007)
Malaysia to help train Muslim teachers (Bangkok Post, 22 August 2007)
Malaysia, Thailand Ink MoU on Education (Bernama, 21 August 2007)