Thursday, October 27, 2005

Is Malaysia a Good Neigbour?

Unlike the Philippines, Thailand has never had any recent design on Malaysian territory despite conceding their sphere of influence in the northen States of Malaya (now Malaysia) to the powerful and rapacious colonising British a couple of centuries back.

Also, Peninsula Malaysia is fortunate that unlike our eastern State of Sabah, there isn’t any significant Thai ethnic group living in border states like Perlis, Kedah or Kelantan posing potential 5th columnist threats or having secessionist inclinations - mind you, we have mucho illegal Indon migrants. Nor has there been any evidence that Thailand had sought to influence the small groups of Thai Malaysians living in Malaysia's northen States to conduct nefarious activities.

However, let’s look into that magic mirror and ask ourselves whether we have been the well-behaved neighbour in the way that Thailand has conducted itself vis-à-vis Malaysia and its Thai Malaysian citizens.

What has been clear to many observers is the fact that there are significant numbers of Muslim in southern Thailand, who have been or are led by some radical leaders urging them to be Malays rather than Thais – in one word, they are secessionists. Another word to describe their attitude is ‘treason’. But that is a Thai internal problem. Similarly, whatever genuine grievances those southern Thai secessionists may have should also be a Thai domestic issue for them to resolve.

But unfortunately we are also aware that there are strong bonds between the Malay-Muslim communities across the Malaysian-Thai border. There has been an unspoken but well-known history of Malaysian support for Thai rebels in the south, though this didn’t or doesn’t necessarily mean the Malaysian federal government had/has been involved.

But sometimes being indifferent doesn't mean a hands-off approach. Official Malaysian indifference towards such dangerous and illegal cross-border insurrection could sometimes be as bad as giving, or misinterpretated to be, silent nods of approval to the Thai rebels' criminal activities.

Any Malaysian encouraging those southern Thais to militate against Bangkok’s rule has been/is unhelpful, and neither would be the provision of logistic, financial and moral support of those Thai rebel groups. By doing so, those Malaysians weren’t/aren’t really helping them. Instead they had/have been motivating or egging the Thais to continue their insurrection against their government, inevitably bringing about Bangkok's aggravation, followed by hardship, disaster and inevitably tragedy unto their families and neighbours.

By providing those Thai rebels logistic, financial, moral support and political sanctuary or a safe haven from which to conduct operations into Thailand, some Malaysians are actually instigating them towards further unpleasant encounters with the Thai security forces, and more shamefully, abetting a foreign insurrection.

As good neighbours we should advise those Thais who seek support from us to resolve their domestic issues with their government through democratic process. I think it’s time for all groups in Malaysia to be firstly, lawful citizens of a Malaysia that abide by the UN Charter of peaceful coexistence, and good citizens of the world who respect the sovereignty of other nations, particularly our ASEAN neighbours, rather than wave the ethnic or religious flag and pretend to support a so-called righteous struggle when in reality those Malaysian supporters had been or are interfering in the internal affairs of a foreign nation.

We seem to forget how the Thais gave us a taste of our own medicine by tolerating the CPM's safe sanctuary in Southern Thailand, in retaliation for our harbouring of PULO, the Thai insurgent group. We didn't like it then, so how do you expect the Thais to countenance our meddling in their insurrection, unofficial as these may be.

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