Deputy Prime Minister Somsak Thepsutin is visiting Malaysia with the hope of restoring relations between the two countries in all areas, including addressing the insurgency problem in the three southern border provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat.
In his capacity as chair of the strategic committee for the development of Thailand’s southern border provinces, Mr Somsak visited Kalantan State in Malaysia on Friday. During his visit, he met with Malaysian businesspeople, including hotel operators, importers of frozen chicken and major property developers in Kota Bharu.
Accompanying Mr Somsak were Pasit Juthaputhi, the Thai consul-general at Kota Bharu, and three Narathiwat MPs from the coalition Bhumjaithai and Palang Pracharath parties.
Mr Somsak also held discussions with Pol Lt Gen Muhamad Zaki Bin Haji Harun, the Kelantan police chief.
Pol Lt Gen Muhamad Zaki said the relations between Thailand and Malaysia has significantly improved, thanks to increased communication and coordination between MPs of both countries.
The Kelatan police chief urged Thailand to step up efforts to suppress the smuggling of illegal workers across the border, citing them as contributors to crime and drug proliferation.
He was full of praise for the Thai government’s wish to have a cross-border bridge linking the two countries. He said this could be accomplished but would take some time.
Mr Somsak said Thailand hoped this would materialise soon, as it would enable peoples on both sides of the border to expand trade.
He said Malaysian businesspeople he talked to had shown interests in developing a large-scale private hospital and halal food businesses. They also wanted to have an international university in the border area. These issues required further detailed discussions, he added.
A rail link between the two countries was also raised for discussion, but it would be a difficult task because Malaysia and Thailand have different track gauges, he said.
Mr Somsak said he hoped his visit would help restore the Thai-Malaysian relations, saying that it was the first high-level visit by a high-level official from Thailand in ten years.
He said he wished to see more senior Malaysian officials engage in mutual efforts to address issues in the three southernmost provinces of Thailand.