Anwar, Srettha set to advance border development tomorrow

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is set to meet his Thai counterpart, Srettha Thavisin, tomorrow in Sadao, Songkhla Province, with the aim of advancing cooperation for the development of the border area between Malaysia and Thailand.

Thailand’s Foreign Ministry, in a statement, said the meeting will primarily focus on expediting the construction of key connectivity projects at the border. The objective is to foster economic activities and improve the overall well-being of the people in the region.

Among the discussed connectivity projects are the road alignment between the new Customs, Immigration, and Quarantine (CIQ) facility in Sadao and Bukit Kayu Hitam. Additionally, attention will be given to the construction of the second bridge at Sungai Golok-Rantau Panjang as part of the collaborative efforts to enhance cross-border infrastructure.

During the meeting, both Prime Ministers will inspect the road alignment linking the new CIQ Sadao in Thailand and the Bukit Kayu Hitam Immigration, Customs, Quarantine and Security (ICQS) checkpoint in Malaysia.

“Thai Prime Minister Srettha will also visit the Bukit Kayu Hitam ICQS of Malaysia upon the invitation of Prime Minister Anwar,” said the statement.

CIQ Sadao stands out as a pivotal border trade checkpoint, boasting the highest volume of both border trade and cross-border trade in Thailand.

The forthcoming meeting between Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin will involve a restricted session, followed by a luncheon hosted by Srettha in honour of Anwar’s visit.

This meeting serves as a continuation of Srettha’s official visit to Malaysia on Oct 11-12, underscoring the joint commitment of both leaders to advance tangible cooperation in the development of the border region between Thailand and Malaysia, with a particular focus on tourism and the facilitation of cross-border transport of goods and passengers.

Addressing border security concerns, both governments have maintained close collaboration to prevent and combat transnational organised crimes in the border areas, including activities such as drug trafficking, human trafficking, and illegal wildlife trade.

Malaysian tourists in Thailand boosted

Noteworthy is the substantial influx of Malaysian tourists to Thailand, with approximately 2.7 million Malaysians visiting the country in 2022, constituting the largest group of tourists. More than one-third of these visitors entered through the Sadao checkpoint.

As a follow-up to Thai premier’s visit to Malaysia, the Royal Thai Government has temporarily suspended the T.M. 6 immigration form for foreign tourists entering Thailand at the CIQ Sadao checkpoint from Nov 1 until April 30 next year. This step aims to streamline the entry process for Malaysian tourists during this period.

Since the implementation of this measure on Nov 1, the number of Malaysian tourists has increased by 64 per cent at the Sadao checkpoint compared to the same period last year.

As of Nov 19, Malaysian tourists topped the list of visitors to Thailand, with a total of 3.9 million visitors.

Thai Government spokesperson Chai Watcharong emphasised that the meeting between Srettha and Anwar at Sadao underscores the mutual commitment of the two governments to prioritise the development of the Thai-Malaysian border region.

“The meeting will enhance connectivity in travel, including streamlining cross-border trade. This initiative will benefit the people of Thailand and Malaysia, fostering growth in trade, investment, tourism, economics, and society,” he said.

Chai highlighted that Malaysia and Thailand have agreed to strengthen cooperation in all aspects, especially focusing on trade and investment, as well as people-to-people relations.

Bilateral trade

Malaysia is Thailand’s fourth-largest trading partner globally and Thailand’s largest trading partner in Asean. Thailand was Malaysia’s seventh-largest trading partner globally and the third largest in Asean, with a trade volume of RM122.03 billion (US$27.75 billion), reflecting a 17.9 per cent increase from RM97.55 billion (US$23.54) in 2021.

The two countries aim to increase trade value to reach their goal of US$30 billion by 2025, with the majority of trade between them being border and transit trade.

Thai-Malaysia border trade in 2022 was valued at 336.12 billion baht, accounting for 31.76 per cent of Thailand’s border trade with neighbouring countries, including trade via the Sadao, Padang Besar, Betong, and Sungai Kolok customs checkpoints.