Thailand’s ‘Deep South’ conflict in focus in upcoming meeting

  • Malaysia’s Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim is due in Bangkok on 9 Feb to meet his Thai counterpart with a sharp focus on the ‘Deep South’ border area between the countries, where a near two-decade insurgency is undermining big investment plans for the zone.
  • Anwar will meet Prayuth Chan-ocha, Thailand’s premier to discuss focus areas such as economic cooperation, border area development and key connectivity projects crossing the land borders.
  • The deep south border area is an important crossroad for north-south trade between Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok and a strategically pivotal neck of land connecting Thailand to Malaysia. Such that any China-backed ambitions to one day run high-speed trains from its Yunnan province to Singapore, will first have to pass through the ‘Deep South’.
  • But the area is gripped by an insurgency against Thai rule by fighters from the Muslim-Malay majority. The zone was annexed by Buddhist-majority Thailand over a century ago and has been governed under martial law since 2004, prompting widespread allegations of rights abuses as well as the railroading of Malay culture and education by the Thai state.
  • Peace and a more stable border can be a big economic booster for the border states in Malaysia as well as Southern Thailand, providing additional impetus for the two nations to amicably resolve any conflicts.

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