Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Thai-Malaysian War of Words

When 131 Thai Muslims took refuge in Malaysia, Thailand asked for them to be sent back. But Malaysia responded that it has a duty to protect Muslim refugees from southern Thailand.

Obviously Syed Hamid, Malaysia’s Foreign Minister was keeping a political eye on Kelantan and playing to the Kelantanese gallery rather than the Thais.

Then when some Malaysians called for a boycott of Thai stuff, Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra went ballistic – for not only were the Malaysians interfering with Thai domestic affairs but also attempting to put pressure on Thailand.

Thaksin has always been a bit of a bulldozer in his attitude towards and treatment of the southern Thai Muslims. He wasn't going to take any sh*t from Malaysia.

Then Syed Hamid added in a bit of cabai burung (Mexican chillies) to the boiling Thai cauldron by telling our northern neighbour to ‘grow up’ over the boycott issue. That sent the Thai Foreign Minister Kantathi Suphamongkhon ballistic as well, with him stating that he wasn’t speaking anymore with Malaysia, who in his mind was obviously playing politics with the issue of 131 Thai trouble-makers.

Trust sweet talking Malaysian DPM Najib Razak to ‘slow talk’ with his Thai colleaguet Chidchai Vanasathidya into some form of resumed courteous relationship. Najib stated:

"We should not allow the problem of the 131 to be blown out of proportion and it should not spill over into the other areas in terms of overall bilateral relations."

But the reality is that once the diplomatic sh*t has hit the fan, the genuine Thai-Malaysian friendship that had once existed in Tengku’s days is no longer.

The trouble has been Thailand’s suspicion of Malaysia’s covert support of the Thai insurgents. That is only partially true. The Malaysian federal government in reality doesn’t want to intrude into what is basically a Thai domestic affair. But at the same time the ruling party UMNO worries that the Islamist opposition, PAS which forms the State government of Kelantan, a haven for the Thai refugees, has been upstaging it by demonstrating overt support for a Thai issue that carries plenty of sympathies among Malaysian Muslims.

Additionally, Thaksin’s accusation of Malaysia as a supporter of Thai Muslim militant separatists has painted Malaysia as another Pakistan. Malaysia doesn’t want to be seen as a state that harbours terrorist groups.

Hence Malaysia is equally pissed off with Thailand for its bulldozing mannerism and statements, without considering Malaysia’s domestic and international positions.

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