Malaysia and Thailand

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13 Feb 2007

* Formula to settle dual citizenship issue
* Officials to work on other joint initiatives

BANGKOK: Malaysia and Thailand
announced a major breakthrough yesterday in their first serious effort
at the highest level of government to bring peace and order to southern

The two had agreed to use biometric methods (thumbprints and
particulars) to identify those with dual citizenship on both sides of
the border and get them to choose which country they wanted to be
citizens of, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi told a
joint news conference here with his Thai counterpart, General Surayud
Chulanont after two days of talks.

“We have found a formula. Both sides will present their number of those suspected of holding dual citizenship.

“If they decide to remain in Malaysia in spite of being Thai
citizens, we will certainly give them permanent status to stay in
Malaysia, and Thailand will reciprocate in the same way in cases of dual citizens there who want to continue to stay in Thailand,” he said.

The move against dual citizenship, to determine those with similar ethnic roots who use one name in Thailand
and another in Malaysia, would enable both countries to keep track of
their citizens’ movements to and from the violence-hit mainly Muslim
southern Thai area, check smuggling and curb illegal border crossings,
officials said.

“This to me is one of the most positive steps we can take after discussing it for many years,” the prime minister said.

Officials of the two countries have begun test runs of the
biometric procedure to verify the details of 500 people from the Thai
side and 500 from the Malaysian side.

Abdullah’s visit to Thailand,
including a one-day stopover on Sunday in Phuket for informal talks
with Surayud, was mainly in response to a plea from the Thai
authorities to help them find ways to overcome an insurgency in the
southern provinces that has killed over 2,000 people in the past three

To stress Malaysia’s readiness to co-operate with Thailand,
the prime minister brought along Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid
Albar and the Menteris Besar of three northern states bordering Thailand. They are Kedah’s Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid, Perak’s Datuk Seri Tajol Rosli Ghazali and Perlis’s Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim.

Abdullah was also reciprocating a visit by Surayud to Malaysia
last October after the Sept 19 military coup which ousted the
government of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. It marked the
start this year of the 50th anniversary of Malaysia-Thailand relations.

The two prime ministers, in a joint statement at the end of their
meetings, said they shared concerns over the southern Thai situation
and regarded it as imperative that attacks on innocent people be

Surayud said there were several other joint initiatives under way
to bring peace to the south, but details were being worked out by the
foreign ministers of the two countries and would be announced later.

Abdullah said Malaysia was also ready to co-operate in bringing
development to the troubled region by offering southern Thais
opportunities to be trained in Malaysia, from which they could seek

“We are determined to do something about the situation in southern Thailand.
We are not wasting time talking, scratching the surface. We believe we
have to offer the people development so that there will be something
for them to look forward to,” he said.

Alluding to reports of rising extremism in the area, Abdullah said
he believed education on moderation in religion was important. Sharing
the same Sunni denomination as the Muslims across the border, promoting
Islam Hadhari to the Thai southerners was one of the ways Malaysia
could help foster peace.

Abdullah made special note of Malaysia’s ethnic diversity and its success in integrating the various communities.

He spoke about how ethnic Thais living in the northern Malaysian
states enjoyed the same privileges as Bumiputeras while they professed

“We don’t force them to embrace Islam. They retain their way of
life, they speak Thai and Bahasa Malaysia, and the same goes for our
Chinese and Indians.”

The joint statement said the two nations would undertake more development projects for border areas under the Thailand-Malaysia
Committee on Joint Development Strategy (JDS) and also noted the
commencement of the construction of a second bridge across the Sungai
Golok, linking Buketa in Thailand and Bukit Bunga in Malaysia.

“The implementation of the JDS projects will improve the quality
of life of the people in the border areas and help stimulate growth in
southern Thailand and the northern states of peninsular Malaysia,” the statement said.

UPDATED: 08:11, February 13, 2007

Malaysia, Thailand exchange biometrics info to resolve
dual citizenship

Malaysia and Thailand
have started a pilot project to exchange biometrics information to
resolve the issue of dual citizenship, Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed
Hamid Albar said Monday.

The two countries have each provided on a voluntary basis 500
fingerprints and other information on their respective citizens through
the cooperation between Malaysia’s Home Affairs Ministry and Thailand’s
Interior Ministry, Syed said in Bangkok.

Syed is accompanying Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on a three-day official visit to Thailand.

“They (the two ministries) will start to verify and see if
there is there overlapping of citizenship,” Syed was quoted as saying
by the Bernama news agency.

Meanwhile, the two sides acknowledged the technical barriers
posed by differences in the database software of the Thai and Malaysian
electronic identification cards.

Thailand has claimed there are between 50,000 and 100,000
people holding the citizenship of both countries, making it easy for
suspected insurgents to hide in Malaysia after committing violence in
three southern Thai provinces, the Bernama reported.

Source: Xinhua

Thailand, Malaysia Agree To Step Up Security Cooperation

12 February 2007

Corben report (Real Audio) – Download 423K
audio clip

Listen to Corben report (Real Audio)
audio clip

Thailand and Malaysia are to increase
cross-border cooperation as part of efforts to end more than three
years of separatist violence in the Southern-most provinces. As Ron
Corben reports from Bangkok, the agreement was reached during an
official visit to Thailand by Malaysia’s Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi
and includes efforts to boost economic development and education

The agreement between Malaysia and Thailand followed a two-day visit
by Malaysia’s Prime Minister Abdulah Badawi to Thailand, and marked a
major turning point in bilateral relations that soured during the
former Thai government of Thaksin Shinawatra.

During formal talks in Bangkok, Mr. Abdualah and Thai Prime Minister
Surayud Chulanot included measures to develop the border areas with
Malaysia offering to assist Thailand in Islamic education studies.

Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi gestures as he speaks at a press conference at Government House in Bangkok, 12 Feb 2007
Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi gestures as he speaks at a press conference at Government House in Bangkok, 12 Feb 2007

Speaking to reporters, Mr. Abdullah, expressed concern the violence in the Thai provinces bordering Malaysia remained a threat.

“Southern Thailand is a big concern to us,” he said. “We intend to
cooperate in whatever way we can so that together we can help to reduce
the situation – which at the moment is one of threat to the peace and
stability of Southern Thailand.”

Since attacks escalated in early 2004, bloodshed has claimed the lives of nearly 2,000 people.

Bilateral relations soured in 2004 amid an escalation of violence
and a harder-line policy by the Thaksin government. Mr. Thaksin also
accused Malaysia of harboring insurgents.

Mr. Surayud, who replaced Thaksin after a September coup, said a
peaceful resolution to the violence was necessary for the region’s
economic progress.

Thai Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont addresses a joint press conference along with Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, unseen, at the Government House in Bangkok, 12 Feb 2007
Thai Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont
addresses a joint press conference along with Malaysian Prime Minister
Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, unseen, at the Government House in Bangkok, 12
Feb 2007

He said, “Both prime ministers agreed
that peace, security and stability in the southern part of Thailand are
relevant and important to the northern most part states of peninsular
Malaysia and vice versa.”

“A peaceful and secure environment is crucial to the economic development and prosperity of these areas,” he continued.

Mr. Surayud said Malaysia had welcomed the Thai government’s new efforts to achieve reconciliation in the southern provinces.

Rights groups accused the Thaksin government of human-rights abuses
in dealing with the insurgency as well as policy failures starting soon
after he came to power in 2001. In November Mr. Surayud publicly
apologized to Thailand’s Muslims for any abuses under the former

The increased cross-border cooperation is welcome, says Human Rights Watch representative in Thailand, Sunai Pasuk.

“Cooperation between the governments of Thailand and Malaysia is
very important to any effort to address the insurgency in Southern
Thailand,” he said. “This is the right approach. I am very pleased to
see Prime Minister Surayud and Prime Minister Badawai seriously working

But analysts say cooperation is just a first step. Separatists
stepped up attacks through late 2006 as Mr. Surayud’s government made
renewed efforts to win back support from the Muslim communities.

Mr. Abdullah also welcomed peace talks between Thai officials and
Muslim insurgents negotiated last year by former Malaysian leader
Mahathir Mohamad, providing Bangkok agrees to participate.

Singapore Foreign Minister Urges Rational Approach Toward Thailand

04:58 PM, February 12th 2007

Foreign Affairs Minister George
Yeo said Monday Thailand is going through some tough times and urged a
rational approach to the strained relations between the two countries.

In the run-up to the coup that ousted Thai Prime Minister Thaksin
Shinawatra, “There was a lot of unhappiness in Thailand,” Yeo told

“The coup itself has created a new drama,” he said. “We hope that
they can return to constitutional rule as quickly as possible and a
government which ensures fairness and justice for the Thai people.”

Thailand suspended a civil service exchange programme with
Singapore last month to protest a visit by Thaksin to the city-state
last month.

“It is certainly not in our interests to aggravate the situation by
acting in an emotional way,” Yeo said in response to a lawmaker’s
suggestion that the money be used for lift upgrading in Singapore.

Yeo reiterated that Singapore had no reason to deny Thanksin entry.
He held a private meeting with an “old friend,” S Jayakumar, who isalso
the current deputy prime minister, Yeo said.

Relations between Singapore and many Thais have been strained since
the city-state bought Thaksin’s family-owned conglomerate that included
sensitive satellites and signals in January 2006. Outrage sparked by
the tax-free 1.9-billion-dollar deal marked the start of political
unrest that ended with Thaksin’s ouster in September.

Thailand’s current military-installed government plans to
investigate the sale of Thaksin’s telecom giant Shin Corporation to
Temasek Holdings, Singapore’s investment arm.

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