Stop arms smuggling, Megawati urges Thais

BANGKOK: President Megawati Sukarnoputri urged Thailand yesterday to crack down on smugglers supplying weapons to separatist rebels in Indonesia's rebellious Aceh province. 

The Indonesian leader, in Bangkok for a two-day state visit, said Thailand was key to choking off the supply of arms to Aceh, where troops have launched an offensive to crush the rebels. 

Speaking to reporters with Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Megawati urged Thailand to “intensify efforts in eradicating arms smuggling to Aceh”. 

“Indonesia is hopeful that Thailand would have narrowed down the activities of the Aceh separatist movement, who have perpetrated terrorist acts and who have infiltrated into Thai territory,” Megawati said. 

Hundreds of people have been killed since Indonesia launched the offensive on May 19 against the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), which has sought independence for the gas-rich province since 1976. Staunchly Muslim Aceh is on the northern tip of Sumatra island. 

Indonesian authorities say GAM's weapons are smuggled in by boat from southern Thailand. In June, Indonesia closed waters surrounding Aceh to foreign ships without permits in a bid to stop the flow of weapons. 

Thaksin did not refer to Aceh in his statement, but he said his government was committed to fighting terrorism in the region. 

Thai security agencies are hunting for accomplices of Indonesian militant leader Hambali who was captured in central Thailand on Aug 11. 

Hambali, a key leader of the militant Jemaah Islamiah (JI) network and suspected mastermind of last year's Bali bombings, was handed over to US authorities and flown to a secret location for interrogation. 

Meanwhile, Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai said yesterday that Hambali was not In the kingdom. 

“Hambali is not here,” Surakiart said after talks between Thaksin and Megawati. – Reuters  

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