New pact for Thailand-M’sia border cooperation

BANGKOK: Thailand and Malaysia are going to sign a new agreement to step up border cooperation, including joint military exercises, Thailand’s defence spokesman Col Thanathip Sawangsaeng said yesterday, China’s Xinhua news agency quoted a local media’s website reported.

The agreement will be signed during the two-day 50th Thai-Malaysian General Border Committee (GBC) meeting at the Dusit Thani Hotel by Thai Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon and his Malaysian counterpart Datuk Seri D Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who was visiting Thailand’s Defence Ministry yesterday.

The new agreement will be an improved version of the one signed by the two countries on May 18, 2000, since the border situation has considerably changed, particularly the insurgency in three southernmost provinces.

Under the new agreement, the two neighbouring countries will develop e-border passes for use in 2011, the spokesman said.

Also from 2011, in addition to joint patrol and military exercises, there will also be joint training of law-enforcement units such as immigration police along the Malaysian-Thai border.

In a related development, Thailand’s House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a bill on the administration of southernmost provinces in the third reading with a vote of 242-86 with 14 abstentions.

The focal point of the bill is about the power of Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre (SBPAC), an agency under the direct command of the Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, to formulate strategies to deal with the southernmost provinces, plagued with insurgency, to be in line with Thailand’s policy on national security.

The SBPAC is headed by a secretary-general, appointed by the prime minister as advised by the Interior Minister.

The legislation is aimed to boost the overall efficiency of the southernmost provinces’ administration, not to give absolute power to any particular person, Thai Deputy Interior Minister Thavorn Senniam, chairman of the House committee scrutinizing the bill, said.

The bill will be forwarded to the Senate for further deliberation.

Thailand’s deep South comprises mainly the three southernmost provinces of Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat, and the four districts of Song-kla province.

At least 3,500 people have been killed by the daily violence attack by the suspected separatists since January 2004. — Bernama

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