BANGKOK (Reuters) - The leaders of Thailand and Malaysia agreed on Friday to increase intelligence sharing on security and to move forward in possibly building a border wall to combat transnational terrorism and smuggling.
People-trafficking and the smuggling of contraband, including drugs and petrol, have flourished along the Thai-Malay border for years until a crackdown by Thai officials on human traffickers caused some of the routes to shut down last year.
Analysts say that separatist insurgents operating in Thailand’s deep south use Malaysia as a base to launch and plan their attacks.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak told reporters that security remained “a very important matter” for both countries and that there was an agreement to increase intelligence gathering and sharing to apprehend cross-border terrorism.
“We both face security issues including the fight against terrorism, human trafficking and illegal smuggling, that is why we need to address these issues seriously,” said Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.
Najib said that both sides had discussed the construction and extension of a border wall with details to be worked out.
“The matter is under consideration but we need to determine the physical dimensions of the wall or fence as well as the sharing of the costs,” he said.
Najib's visit follows three deadly bomb attacks in southern Thailand over the past month, including a wave of bombings in tourist towns in August which Thai police have linked to Muslim separatists.
Analysts say the attacks were carried out by a separatist insurgent group known as Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) after having been left out of peace talks between the Thai government and a separate separatist umbrella group in Malaysia.
Thailand's three southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat were once part of an independent Malay Muslim sultanate until they were annexed by Thailand in 1909.
Since 2004, Muslim separatists operating in the area have waged a bloody insurgency which has claimed more than 6,500 lives, according to the Deep South Watch which monitors the conflict.
(Reporting by Cod Satrusayang; Editing by Nick Macfie)