Tue, Apr 13, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Thailand, Malaysia meet on security

AP , PUTRAJAYA, MALAYSIA

Thailand and Malaysia will speed up plans to economically develop the violence-prone region along their shared border to stop it from becoming a breeding ground for insurrection and terrorism, their leaders said yesterday.

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra flew to Malaysia yesterday for urgent talks with his counterpart, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, about a recent upsurge in violence in his country's Muslim-dominated south which Thai officials blame on Muslim separatists.

The leaders read statements to reporters after their talks, which lasted less than an hour, but they refused to take questions.

There was no mention of the recent claim by Thaksin that terrorists responsible for the attacks have taken shelter in Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur strongly denied the accusation, which raised tensions between the two neighbors ahead of the talks.

Abdullah said Malaysia and Thailand had reaffirmed their agreement to share intelligence about cross-border security issues.

"Terrorism is something that we totally oppose, we stand together against combating terrorists, criminals, drug peddlers and other groups that are causing instability and trouble to both countries," Abdullah said.

He said senior officials from the two countries would meet soon to discuss how to fight poverty in the border region under a plan announced earlier this year.

"This is one of the most positive things that we can do, so that people along the border will have no cause to ... resort to certain acts that will be against the law," he said.

No timetable or goals have been set for the plan.

"Things cannot be done overnight, but efforts must be made to show some concrete results," Abdullah said.

Thaksin said yesterday's talks were candid and conducted "in all cordiality," and that Abdullah "fully understood the recent difficulties in southern Thailand."

"We were of the same mind in our analysis of the complex nature of the causes and remedies needed to address it," Thaksin said. "We are confident that with the spirit and the closeness of cooperation at all levels, we can confront and overcome common challenges that remain."

Thailand's southern provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala are the overwhelmingly Buddhist country's only Muslim-majority areas. Mus-lims complain of discrimination in jobs and education.

At least 64 people have been killed this year in shootings by unidentified gunmen who have largely targeted policemen, government officials, teachers and monks. The attacks have been blamed on Islamic separatists, although some officials say the violence may be related to personal conflict.

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