Accessibility links

Thailand, Malaysia Focus on Economy, Security in Annual Talks - 2004-10-13

The prime ministers of Thailand and Malaysia are holding two days of talks, discussing issues ranging from economic development to regional terrorism.

The talks between Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and Malaysia's Abdullah Badawi addressed a concern to both leaders: How to increase economic development and security in Muslim-dominated regions along the border of the two countries.

Thai government spokesman, Jakrapop Penkair, says the prime ministers have met regularly since violence erupted early this year in southern Thailand.

The attacks are being blamed on Muslim separatists operating in Thailand's Muslim-dominated southern provinces. Thailand has expressed concern that Malaysia was not doing enough to stop the separatists from slipping over the border into largely Muslim Malaysia.

Mr. Jakrapop says both prime ministers are committed to solving the problem.

"The two countries understand each other perfectly well when it comes to the disturbances in Southern Thailand," he said. "The two leaders agree that we exchange information and intelligence. So security and economic issues are therefore combined in these two meetings."

As the two-day talks began, two men were gunned down in southern Thailand by suspected Muslim separatists.

Since the start of the year the death toll has topped 350 people, marking one of worst periods of violence in the border provinces.

Earlier this year, Thailand and Malaysia decided to tackle the problem on an economic front, and formed a committee charged with increasing cross-border development and investment.

Malaysia's Prime Minister Badawi announced at the start of the meetings a $2 million bridge to link Malaysia and Thailand. Both prime ministers will officiate at the groundbreaking on Thursday, saying the bridge is an important symbol of their shared commitment to economic prosperity in the region.