Thailand's foreign minister accuses Malaysia

Thailand's foreign minister accused Malaysia on Monday of making negative comments about his government's handling of an Islamic insurgency in southern Thailand instead of helping to resolve the conflict.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Mamid Albar reportedly asked the Thai government on Sunday to be "mature" about a call by Malaysian Muslim activists for a boycott of Thai goods over the handling of the insurgency, suggesting that Bangkok had overreacted by alleging the activists were insurgents or conspiring with them.

"Malaysia should think about ending the method they have chosen ... stop giving interviews to the media to teach us things that there is no need to teach," Thai Foreign Minister Kantathi Supamongkhon told Business Radio and Television.

Relations between the neighbors have been strained since a violent insurgency flared early last year in predominantly Muslim southern Thailand in which more than 1,000 people have died.

Relations hit a low when 131 Thai Muslims fled to neighboring Malaysia in late August, saying they feared for their lives. Bangkok demanded their repatriation, but Malaysia said it would only send them back after Thailand guaranteed their safety.

Thai Deputy Prime Minister Chitchai Vanasathidya is to visit Malaysia on Oct. 25 to discuss the issue, the state Thai News Agency said last week.

Malaysia has deployed three armored troop carriers along its border and urged Thailand to boost security there as well, Malaysia's The Star newspaper reported Sunday.

Most Thais are Buddhists, but Muslims are a majority in the country's far south, and often complain of being treated like second-class citizens. Their alienation has fed Islamic separatist sentiment.

The government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has been criticized for its heavy-handed approach to the insurgency.

Meanwhile, suspected Muslim insurgents shot to death a Muslim village chief in southern Thailand on Monday. Gunmen armed with assault rifles opened fire on the man, a government supporter, while he was heading to a local mosque, police Col. Term Intasara said, reports the AP. I.L.

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