January 14, 2020 / 2:19 PM / 13 days ago

Thailand, Indonesia to share intelligence to combat insurgents

ACEH, Indonesia (Reuters) - Thailand and Indonesia on Tuesday signed an intelligence sharing agreement that the Thai army chief said would help limit the movements of insurgents operating in the Muslim-majority southern region of Thailand.

Thai Army Chief General Apirat Kongsompong shakes hands with Malik Mahmud Al Haytar, former Free Aceh Movement leader, before a meeting with Indonesia's National Army Chief of Staff General Andika Perkasa at Aceh, Indonesia January 14, 2020. REUTERS/Panu Wongcha-um

Buddhist-majority Thailand and Muslim-majority Indonesia will share information on “movements of extremists, rebels or perpetrator groups who have been undermining national security”, the official document seen by Reuters said.

It was signed during an official visit by Thai Army Chief General Apirat Kongsompong to the Indonesian province of Aceh on Tuesday.

“This is about limiting the freedom to operate by groups, because we will be sharing information and monitoring individuals,” Apirat said.

Apirat said that Indonesia, particularly Aceh, has been used in the past by Thai insurgent groups to train as well as to hide and plan operations against Thailand.

Thailand is fighting a Muslim separatist insurgency in the southern provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat that has killed nearly 7,000 people since 2004, according to the Deep South Watch monitoring group.

In one recent attack, the insurgents stormed a security checkpoint and killed 15 people.

Top Indonesian general Perkasa did not mention any specific militant groups that Jakarta was requesting Thailand to monitor but stressed regional cooperation.

“In handling any security issue, we should handle it together,” General Perkasa said.

Threats to Indonesia include Islamist militant groups like Jemaah Islamiyah and other Islamic State inspired groups.

Aceh was embroiled in an insurgency that killed 15,000 people over three decades until a 2005 truce between the Free Aceh Movement and Jakarta that gave the region special autonomy and allowed it to implement Sharia law.

Apirat, however, expressed no imminent hope for a peace deal with the southern Thai insurgents.

“I have said that the land within the Kingdom of Thailand cannot be separated, but there continues to be those who are against this all the time, so how can peace be achieved?” he said.

Editing by Kay Johnson and Nick Macfie

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