Kuala Lumpur – A new twist has emerged in the ongoing diplomatic row between Malaysia and Thailand. Malaysian officials are now claiming that Thailand has been spying on Malaysian troop movements at the border.
According to Malaysia's Defence Forces chief, Admiral Mohd Anwar Mohd Nor, soldiers at the Territorial Army's Post 803 border camp near Pengkalan Hulu in Perak had seen men in black balaclavas trying to monitor troops movements at the post.
"A preliminary report found that on Sept 17, the 'spies' were seen climbing trees to look across our border. I feel we have nothing to worry about as we know they want the latest information on our method of operations," he told reporters after visiting the camp on Oct 21.
The "spying activities" were detected over a four-day period within a week from Sept 17, at a distance of about 400m from the Malaysian border. Malaysian soldiers using routes in rubber and oil palm estates in the area detected the spying activities without the other side being aware of their presence.
Adm Mohd Anwar said all reports and recordings of the spying activities would be analysed to determine if it was a trend or just on occasions.
"The matter can be discussed by military chiefs at the Regional Border Committee meeting. Such activities are normal and we don't consider them a threat. Maybe they miss us here."
Adm Anwar also denied the incidents had anything to do with the continued unrest in southern Thailand.
Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Najib Abdul Razak, said on Oct 22 that security forces at the Malaysia-Thailand will be beefed up to ensure that there are no intrusions, including for espionage.
"We're adding more personnel to monitor the situation at the border so that no one can encroach for whatever reason. If they enter to get information, we won't allow it because they must respect Malaysia's border," he said.
In Bangkok, Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra described Adm Mohd Anwar’s claims as a "misunderstanding". He said the two countries would continue to work together to strengthen their relationship.
The two neighbours have been squabbling over the fate of 131 Thai-Muslims who crossed illegally into Malaysia in late August, claiming that they feared for their lives. Malaysia has said that it will not deport the 131 unless their human rights are guaranteed. Thailand, in turn, has accused Malaysia of interfering in its domestic affairs.
* PM: spy charge a misunderstanding (The Nation, Oct 23)
* M'sia prohibits border intrusions 'for whatever reason' (Bernama, Oct 22)
* Spying activities detected at border (Bernama, Oct 21)