Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Wednesday paid an official visit to Thailand to meet his Thai counterpart Prayut Chan-ocha.
It was Mahathir’s first official visit to Thailand after being elected as prime minister in May 2018.
During this visit, Mahathir and Prayut are scheduled to hold a closed-door meeting in which they will discuss the latest developments in peace talks between the Thai government and rebels in the country’s south.
Malaysia has long acted as a facilitator for peace talks between the Thai government and Mara Patani, a separatist umbrella group which claims to be a political wing of insurgent groups clashing with state forces.
Malaysian Ambassador to Thailand Jojie Samuel said his country was a sincere facilitator for peace talks in southern Thailand.
Safe zone in the southern Thailand
Mahathir’s visit is expected to create positive impact on negotiation process which is facing a deadlock, especially regarding the implementation of the safe zone in the region.
Thai media expect that former Malaysian police chief Abdul Rahim Noor, new facilitator for the southern Thailand peace talks, can revive the process.
The Malaysian envoy said peace in southern Thailand will assure investors to develop their businesses that eventually will increase trade between the two countries.
In 2013, Thailand signed peace talks with the Patani Malay National Revolutionary Front (BRN), a Patani independence movement in northern Malaysia.
At that time, the negotiations were mediated by Najib Abdul Razak’s government.
However, the negotiations between the BRN and the Thai government stopped in 2014 due to military coup led by Prayut against the Yingluck Shinawatra’s government.
Prayuth renewed the negotiation process which almost actualized the safe zone plan between the two parties.
Meanwhile, Malaysia also experienced a political change when the Pakatan Harapan coalition defeated the ruling government led by Najib Razak.
Since then, peace talks in southern Thailand have stalled.