Thailand and Malaysia plan wall along border to combat trafficking

By: Logan Connor - Posted on: September 9, 2016 | Current Affairs

A meeting today between Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha was expected to focus on security and investment, including discussion of a proposed wall that would stem trafficking between the two countries

Thailand Malaysia border checkpoint
Malaysian immigration at the Malaysian Thai border post in Betong, a vibrant border town in Yala, 850 kilometres south of Bangkok, Thailand. Photo: EPA/BARBARA WALTON

Thailand and Malaysia will today discuss the possibility of building a wall between the two countries in an attempt to combat the illegal flow of goods and labour, according to media reports.

The meeting today between Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha is slated to focus on security cooperation and investment between the two countries.

“[The wall] will be on the agenda during Najib’s visit, but it will not be the biggest item on the agenda,” Chinawut Setawat, a spokesperson for Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told Reuters this week.

The proposed wall’s specifications have not been made public, but Yutthanam Petchmuang, a spokesperson for Thailand’s Internal Security Operations Command, told Reuters that the wall’s planning was “still in the memorandum of understanding phase”.

Najib’s visit to Thailand follows a wave of bomb attacks carried out in southern Thailand in the past month, which Thai police have linked to the long-term Muslim insurgency in the country’s south that has claimed more than 6,500 lives.

A wall between Malaysia and Thailand would primarily serve to stifle this insurgency, according to Paul Chambers, a lecturer in international relations at the Institute of Southeast Asian Affairs in Chiang Mai.

“The Thai junta’s most pressing interest along the Thailand-Malaysia border is to stop the flow of weapons and insurgents across the frontier to the Malay-Muslim insurgency in Thailand’s deep south –an insurgency which has been very costly to Thailand in lives and finance…” he said

However, the construction of a wall between the countries would likely do little to deter traffickers, he added: “The illegal movement of goods – be they narcotics, weapons or fuel – will only be scarcely affected by the construction of a wall. Walls cannot stop the desire to make money.”

The smuggling of people, drugs and goods has flourished along the 640-kilometre Thai-Malay border, prompting cooperation between the two countries. Last month, Thailand agreed to extradite to Malaysia ten people allegedly involved in trafficking Rohingya migrant workers whose bodies were found when multiple mass graves were discovered last year.