Malaysia, Thailand take new tack in ending insurgency

Updated 10:21 AM Jun 09, 2009

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razzak (L) shakes hands with his Thai counterpart, Abhisit Vejjajiva (R), during their meeting in Malaysia's administrative capital of Putrajaya. AFP

PUTRAJAYA - Malaysia pledged yesterday to help young Muslims in neighbouring Thailand to secure a better education and employment to ease violence sparked by an Islamic separatist movement.

Leaders of both countries discussed measures to bring economic progress to southern Thailand, including Malaysia's role of providing scholarships for Thai Muslim students and helping revamp the syllabus of Islamic schools in the Thai provinces that border northern Malaysia.

Thailand's Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva was on his first official visit to Malaysia, where he met his Malaysian counterpart, Mr Najib Razak. Both leaders planned to visit a religious school in Thailand's Muslim-dominated south in order to talk to the people. The visit is still unscheduled.

Mr Abhisit said his government was shifting emphasis in the troubled southern region to economic development. His comments came shortly after Islamic insurgents shot dead a villager and then detonated a car bomb as a crowd gathered, killing one person and wounding 19 others.

In spite of the killings, Mr Najib said both leaders remained optimistic of the situation in the south. "We remain optimistic that things will get a lot better if we continue to emphasise on economic development and giving them a better future. As a result of this new policy towards the south, things have improved," said Mr Najib.

An Islamic insurgency launched in 2004 has killed more than 3,400 in Thailand's southern provinces. The area was the former Islamic sultanate of Pattani, conquered by Thailand over 200 years ago. AGENCIES

From TODAY, World – Tuesday, 09-Jun-2009

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