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Improvement in Malaysian-Thai relations?

Updated On: Jun 14, 2005

Malaysian-Thai relations has been somewhat strained because of the problems in the Thailand South, and initial allegation by Thai government that “Thai terrorists” were harboured in Malaysia. However a recent visit by Thai Foreign Minister Kantathi Suphamongkhon to Kuala Lumpur was touted as a good start to restoring good bilateral ties.

Thailand is looking to Malaysia for help in rehabilitating its tainted image in the eyes of the international community, particularly in the Muslim world, because of the unrest in the south. At the same time, Thailand wanted to learn from the Malaysian experience in education, particularly the country’s successful integration of secularized world views of Islam into its modern education system. The two governments are also reviving plans to push through the Kolok bridge that will linkMalaysia’s Bukit Bunga in the northern state of Kelantan to Thailand’s Ban Buketa in the southern province of Narathiwat.  Both agreed that socioeconomic and infrastructural development are long-term solutions to the problems in the predominantly Muslim region.

More immediate however was the request by Thailand to abide by the 1911 treaty (old treaty signed between the British Government – then ruling Malaysia, andThailand) to help catch those responsible to the violence in southern Thailand.

Malaysia and Thailand presently does not have an extradition treaty, and a diplomatic row had erupted in February over Thailand’s request to the Malaysian government to extradite Thai citizen, Chae Kumae Kuteh, who was a suspected mastermind behind several violent incidents in southern Thailand.  Chae who also possessed Malaysian citizenship was apprehended in Malaysia in January, and the Malaysian government had retained him for questioning and maintained that the government is not obligated to extradite Chae.

But it looked rather unlikely that Thailand would get its wish on this matter very soon, as Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi indicated that the treaty was forged before Independence, and hence it was not clear if Malaysia was still duty-bound to abide by the pace.  Foreign Minister, Syed Hamid also added that that this is also not just a matter of extraditions, and “both countries must abide by the due process of law”.

* Abide by treaty, Malaysia urged (New Straits Times, 11 June 2005)

* Editorial – New rapport between old friends (The Nation, 11 June 2005)

* Ministers to push Kolok bridge plan (The Nation, 13 June 2005)

Bangkok will see projects through in restive provinces (New Straits Times, 13 June 2005)