Pasir Mas (Kelantan) – To discourage Thais from crossing into the border illegally, Malaysia on Oct 15 moved three armoured cars to its border withThailand. Deputy Internal Security Minister Noh Omar said the deployment was to demonstrate Malaysia's resolve to deter intrusions into its territory.
"I believe it would be better if the Thais also increase their border control to prevent their people from entering Malaysia illegally," he told reporters during a tour of the border areas along Sungai Golok.
He added that more than 6,000 Thais had been turned away at the Pengkalan Kubor border crossing since April. "Even Malaysians with Thai wives must ensure that they have valid documents. Otherwise, their wives will not be allowed into the country," Mr Noh said.
In late August, 131 Thais from southern Thailand fled across the border to seek shelter after an upsurge in violence in their home region.
Their status remains in a limbo as Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has dismissed the idea of official negotiations over their fate.
The Thai government had been upset by comments made by Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar that Kuala Lumpur would repatriate the 131 Thai-Muslims only on condition Bangkok promised to protect their rights. The Thai Foreign Ministry called the comments "an interference" in Thailand's internal affairs.
While Malaysia is sympathetic to the illegal immigrants' plight, the government is reluctant to grant them refugee status since it may encourage a mini-exodus from southern Thailand.
Mr Noh said the 131 were being well-treated and had been relocated from Kelantan to Terengganu to provide them with better facilities.
"Malaysia treats every detainee – whether a criminal or refugee – well and we meet the required international standard. This is why we seldom see hunger strikes by detainees here," he said.
* Over 6,000 Thais turned away at border (The Star, Oct 16)
* Malaysia deploys armoured cars to strengthen border patrols (Bernama, Oct 15)