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More flip-flops? - Bilateral cooperation in the South and the upcoming elections

Updated On: Jul 03, 2007

This topic is not new. The issue of bilateral cooperation between Malaysia and Thailand to quell the violence in the border regions has been going on for many months.

There have been many meetings between Malaysian and Thai officials to discuss measures to procure peace. However, the outcome remains to be seen given the hesitation both sides have in implementing concrete measures. The most recent meeting last week between Thai and Malaysian officials is another case in point.

On Thursday (28 June) Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont and Malaysian Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar met in Bangkok and “agreed to implement the so-called ‘3E’ programmes in education, employment and entrepreneurship” to boost the socio-economic climate of the border areas to bring about long-term peace and reconciliation, the Bernama reported. On Friday (29 June), the Thai News Agency noted that Thai foreign minister Nitya Pibulsonggram and Hamid Albar co-chaired the 10th meeting of the Malaysia-Thailand Joint Commission (JCM), fleshing out the same themes. The areas in which bilateral cooperation will be carried out are the “five southern border provinces of Thailand and Malaysia's five northern states of Kedah, Perak, Kelantan, and Terengganu”. 

To all this, Surayud is grateful for Malaysian assistance. On a television interview on Saturday (30 June), he expressed that “the government will not object it if international organisations especially from Malaysia act as a mediator to solve unrest in the restive South… the government welcomes their roles as it is their good intention”, the Bangkok Post reported.

However, it appears that there has been some diplomatic miscommunication somewhere with regard to the exact parameters of bilateral cooperation over the weekend as Malaysia has been quick to refute Surayud’s point. The Bernama noted that on Sunday (1 July), Hamid Albar insisted that “Malaysia is not playing the role of mediator”. He said, “Thailand has asked for our assistance and we are only providing help in (the area of) socio-economic development [as previously discussed].”

On the contentious issue of elections, there are differing views between the kingdom’s two top honchos. Junta leader Gen. Sonthi Boonyaratkalin expressed doubts about whether elections could be held this year. This is because “he is concerned that the draft constitution could be rejected during the forthcoming referendum” and not because the “Council for National Security (CNS) wants to cling on power”, as the people commonly believe, the Thai News Agency said.

Despite similar concerns that elections could be delayed till 2008, Surayud is adamant that they be held end of 2007. He said, “In my view we should hold the election this year. It's important to keep your word whenever possible.” However, he added a caveat, saying that a firm date could only be set after the referendum on the new constitution. (2 July 2007)

Sources:

Surayud hoping to keep promise (Nation, 2 July 2007)

CNS chairman concerned that public may reject charter (TNA, 1 July 2007)

Malaysia's Not Mediator Role in Ending Southern Thailand Unrest: Syed Hamid (Bernama, 1 July 2007)

Govt. welcomes help to solve unrest (Bangkok Post, 30 June 2007)

ThailandMalaysia agree to build confidence, defuse unrest (TNA, 29 June 2007)

MalaysiaThailand to Implement "3E" To End Southern Conflict (Bernama, 28 June 2007)