Kuala Lumpur - The first high-level meeting between Thailand and Malaysia failed to solve the issue of the 131 Thai-Muslims who fled to Malaysia in late August, claiming that they feared for their safety. But in a sign that both sides are eager to put their war of words behind them, both Deputy Prime Ministers have proclaimed that bilateral ties are on the mend.
Thai Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Chidchai Wannasathit, met his Malaysian counterpart, Mr Najib Abdul Razak, and other senior officials during a brief visit to Kuala Lumpur on Oct 27. The meeting came after weeks of trading barbs over the escalating violence in southern Thailand and the issue of the 131 illegal migrants.
The Thai government, alleging that the group includes suspected militant leaders, wants the 131 to be repatriated immediately. Malaysia has said that it can only send the Thai-Muslims back if the Thai government could guarantee their safety.
Mr Chidchai attributed the diplomatic friction arising from the border issues to discrepancies in information. Henceforth, he added, both governments would exchange and update information and intelligence more regularly.
Both he and Mr Najib also agreed not to comment on bilateral matters through the media if that could set back diplomacy. "It's a happy ending all around," said Mr Chidchai.
He said the repatriation process of the 131 illegal immigrants was likely to be sorted out by the end of the year.
For his part, Mr Najib, who is also the Defence Minister, said that he and Mr Chidchai agreed that good bilateral ties should be maintained no matter what happens.
"We also want both sides to provide the latest information, especially, from the Thai side on the developments taking place in southern Thailand.
"As for the status of the 131 refugees, the Thai Deputy Prime Minister has reiterated that their safety will be guaranteed if they return home," Mr Najib said.
* Ties with KL 'improving' (Bangkok Post, Oct 29)
* Ties with Thais will always come first (The Star, Oct 29)