By Piyanart Srivalo
Thailand and Malaysia would allow residents in border provinces and states to have more access and longer stays in either country in an aim to facilitate trade and cultural connectivity, a government source said yesterday.
However, there are security concerns about the proposed measure.
The cabinet meeting today will consider a proposal from the Interior Ministry to review the 1940 border agreement between Siam and British Malaya in an effort to make it more compatible with current situation, the source said.
Thailand and Malaysia agreed in principle to review the pact at a meeting of the Joint Commission nearly 10 years ago. The Interior Ministry and Malaysia’s Home Affairs Ministry held a meeting in March to review the old agreement and negotiate a new one.
Residents of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat, Songkhla and Satun and the Malaysian states of Kedah, Kelantan, Perak and Perlis would be allowed to use a border pass rather than their passport to cross the border. They would be allowed to stay up to 30 days, rather than the current seven days. Their travel allowance would cover the entire province or state rather than the current 25 kilometres from the border. Also, the border pass would be a valid for year, double from the current six months.
If the Cabinet approves, concerned agencies would sign the necessary agreement with Malaysia by the end of this year, the source said.
The National Intelligence Agency has concerns that the new border-crossing arrangements might affect security in the violence-torn provinces.
The National Security Council (NSC) has commented that authorities must tighten their operations along the border to stop smugglers as well as insurgents who might take advantage of the freer access and use Malaysia as a sanctuary.
Since 2004, there have been almost daily incidents of violence in the southernmost provinces, claiming more than 5,000 lives.
Yesterday, two school directors and two soldiers were injured in a bomb explosion at Ban Batu School in Narathiwat’s Bajoh district.
School director Korde Laemaenae, Ban Buenaepiyae School director Ma Dueramae, Private Wattana Sridet and Private Panuwat Chinrak, were rushed to Bajoh Hospital to be treated for shrapnel wounds.
Police say the directors and soldiers were in the school pavilion discussing preparations for a meeting of school directors when the bomb went off. It’s believed that insurgents planted the bomb near the pavilion and set off the device when they saw the men sitting there. The blast destroyed marble stools in the pavilion and blew a small hole in the edifice.
The government and concerned agencies are debating solutions to contain the violence.
Newly appointed NSC chief Paradorn Pattanathabutr wants to put an end to the special emergency and security laws in a bid to restore normalcy to the region.
However, Army chief Prayuth Chanocha disagrees, saying it would be more difficult for officials to counter the insurgents because the procedures under normal law are too long and complicated.