KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia hopes to get a clearer picture on the peace efforts in southern Thailand when Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha holds bilateral talks with Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on Monday.

Officials said several Cabinet ministers and senior officials would accompany the Thai military ruler, who will be in Putrajaya for a half-day visit.

Malaysia is the facilitator for the peace effort between the Thai government and Barisan Revolusi Negara, comprising Pattani United Liberation Organisation (Pulo) and Barisan Islam Pembebasan Pattani (BIPP).

The parties signed an agreement in February last year to hold talks. The Malaysian Govern­ment brokered the historic deal.

It was the first time that Thailand, under the then Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, agreed to engage in talks to end the decade-long conflict between rebels and the Thai government.

Several rounds of talks were held by the Joint Working Group-Southern Thai Peace Process (JWG-STPP) secretariat but they came to a stop when there was a change of government in Bangkok in May after a coup that saw Prayut, who was army chief, serving as the de facto prime minister.

Malaysian officials said Kuala Lumpur was eager to hear from Prayut himself on his stand for peace in southern Thailand.

An official said the previous Thai government was committed to the peace efforts and although Prayut had given indication he was ready to return to the table, the seriousness of his government remained to be seen.

“The question is also whether the parties involved in the talk trust the Thai military go­vernment,” said the official, who also noted that Thailand’s revered King Bhumibol Adulya­dej had formally endorsed Prayut as prime minister.

Another official said Thailand was a close neighbour and whatever happened to the kingdom would affect Malaysia.

Trade ties have been strong and have been on the rise in the past decade up to last year. But between January and September this year, total trade with Thailand slumped by 1.3% to US$18.30bil (RM61.23bil).

Thailand is Malaysia’s fifth largest trading partner and among Asean, it is the second lar­gest after Singapore.

Prayut would be accorded a ceremonial welcoming ceremony in Putrajaya on his arrival before his meeting with Najib. The Prime Minister will later host a luncheon for the Thai delegation at Seri Perdana.