Malaysia Harbouring Militants?

Bilateral relations between Thailand and Malaysia have been unfailingly polite, states this news report in Singapore's Straits Times. The "diplomatic niceties" appear to have been put aside now, however, as Thailand and Malaysia discuss the contentious issue of terrorist bombings in Thailand. Thailand has accused Malaysia of harboring Muslim separatist terrorists believed to be responsible for bombings in Thailand during the last several months. Bangkok claims that these terrorists hold dual Thai and Malaysian nationalities, and find refuge in the border towns and villages in Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur, however, contends that it respects Thai sovereignty and would not let its territory be used for training militants. The international terrorist and militant religious networks that extend to several countries in the Asia-Pacific clearly compound any easy solution. – YaleGlobal

Malaysia Harbouring Militants?

Show us proof, Kuala Lumpur tells Bangkok
Reme Ahmad
Wednesday, April 7, 2004

MALAYSIA is showing growing irritation over charges by Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra that it is harbouring Muslim separatist terrorists.

Yesterday, the gloves came off - Kuala Lumpur put aside its diplomatic niceties and said it was tired of Thailand's blame game and demanded that Bangkok show proof to back its allegations.

Defence Minister Najib Tun Razak said: 'We have said that, okay, you have made the remarks, now give us the information.

'If you give us information, we can act on it,' he said. 'What is necessary now is not more statements but accurate and timely intelligence.'

'Malaysia is not a safe haven for any terrorist,' he said.

The defence minister's comments followed sharp words from Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar a day earlier.

'Reports of terrorists, who are fighting for a separate state in the region, being trained in Malaysia, are old stories being repeated.

'We have openly, clearly and continuously given assurances to Thailand that we do not support any separatist movement and that we respect their territorial integrity and will not let our borders be used as training grounds,' Datuk Seri Syed Hamid told reporters on Monday.

The harsh tone between the two sides come ahead of the April 12 meeting between Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi and his Thai counterpart Thaksin Shinawatra. The main agenda of the meeting would be the security situation in southern Thailand.

Thai government spokesman Jakrapob Penkair was yesterday quoted by AFP as saying: 'Thailand's Prime Minister never said Malaysia is a safe haven for terrorists, he never said that if there are no arrests it will affect the bilateral relationship.

'We will explain everything when the two leaders meet.'

The tiff is unusual as the two neighbours are normally polite in making public statements on bilateral matters.

But the issue bedeviling relations is not easy to resolve.

The spate of attacks and bombings in southern Thailand over the past few months has killed 60 people, putting pressure on the Thai government to act.

After almost each incident, Thai officials including Mr Thaksin were quick to point out that those responsible have dual Thai and Malaysian nationalities. And that they fled to Malaysia yet again.

Last Thursday, he said: 'It is now easy to kill somebody and flee to Malaysia where they have met openly to talk about such issues like secession.

'There is a village inside Malaysia which has been used as a refuge... We will need to tighten up along the border and sort out the problem of dual citizenship.'

He added: 'Malaysian villages on the border are places for sheltering and hiding terrorists. This is not a groundless accusation. The Malaysian authorities are fully aware of this and have pledged full cooperation.'

Malaysia and Thailand share a long common border.

Although there are many immigration checkpoints, such official barriers are often ignored by villagers living on the border.

One popular crossing point into Thailand from northern Kelantan is by taking boats across Sungai Golok, a river that separates the two countries, observers say.

Copyright @ 2004 Singapore Press Holdings.

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