PUTRAJAYA, June 9 — Malaysia has agreed to help Thailand revamp the curriculum of its Islamic schools, as part of a bid to end the Muslim insurgency in its neighbour’s violence-wracked south.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, speaking after his Thai counterpart Abhisit Vejjajiva’s first official visit to Malaysia yesterday, said both countries believed they could resolve the decades-old unrest through the “Three Es”: education, employment, economy.
‘We remain optimistic that things can get a lot better if we continue to focus on… giving them a better future,’ he said at a press conference with Abhisit.
The Thai Premier led a team of 38 officials, including his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban and Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya.
The two leaders discussed steps to develop the economy in southern Thailand, as well as Malaysia’s contribution in providing scholarships and vocational training for Thai-Muslim students.
Buddhist-majority Thailand annexed the former ethnic-Malay sultanate in 1902, leading to decades of tension which exploded in renewed violence in 2004.
More than 3,400 people have been killed so far in Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat, where residents are more fluent in a Malay dialect than they are in Thai, and live in one of Thailand’s poorest areas.
The region remains under martial law and sporadic violence has continued, with suspected militant gunmen killing 10 worshippers and wounding 13 in a mosque late yesterday, although Bangkok’s counterinsurgency effort has managed to reduce the attacks.
According to the Council on Foreign Relations, a United States-based think-tank, analysts believe Malaysia is willing to help restore stability in the Thai south as it fears the violence may spill over into its territory.
There was also a rash of allegations that militants were being trained in Malaysia, although there was little evidence to support the claim. — The Straits Times