Kuala Lumpur – Thailand's already sensitive relations with Malaysia are likely to be inflamed further after the Thai Defence Minister claimed that the Malaysian resortisland of Langkawi had served as a rendezvous for Thai militants. Some of their bloody attacks in the deep South were planned in Langkawi in the northern state of Kedah, said Mr Thammarak Isarangura Na Ayuthaya.
He made the allegation when asked to comment on a suggestion by former Malaysian prime minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, that the 131 Thai-Muslims who fled to Malaysia on Aug 30 be given refugee status. Kedah also happens to be Dr Mahathir’' home state.
"The movement that draws my attention is in Langkawi. It is also where a former Malaysian politician lives. The militant leaders have been there several times," Mr Thammarak was quoted as saying on Sept 10.
In Kuala Lumpur, Defence Minister Najib Abdul Razak denied that terrorists had held meetings in Langkawi or in any part of Malaysia.
"We investigated the allegation but there's no proof. So, I want to tell them there's no such meeting as alleged and there are no terrorists in Langkawi and in any parts of Malaysia that we know of," he said on Sept 12.
On Mr Thammarak's reported allegations, Mr Najib said: "I don't know whether he (the Thai minister) was correctly quoted by the newspapers."
Mr Najib, who is also the Deputy Prime Minister, said Malaysia and Thailand must work closely to ensure security was guaranteed in border areas.
"We cannot say the Thais are transferring the problem this side or we transferring the problem that side. The bottom line is, both governments must have a good understanding and a good working relationship to ensure security in border areas was under control," Mr Najib said.
The 31 Thais who crossed illegally into the Kelantan are now being held at an immigration transit centre while Thailand and Malaysia discuss their status. The United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR), which had interviewed the group at Malaysia's request, said it would make its assessment within a fortnight.
The Thais claimed that they fled to Malaysia due to the escalating violence in southern Thailand. They also said they were afraid that they might be targets in a security exercise to weed out militants.
* M'sia, Thailand Must Work Closely For Border Security, Says Najib (Bernama, Sept 12)
* Intelligence chiefs keep close watch on Langkawi (Bangkok Post, Sept 11)