Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha told his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe at a bilateral meeting in Tokyo yesterday that his government was committed to "an early restoration of democracy" with an election to be held by the end of this year or early next year.
In a joint statement issued after the meeting, both leaders reiterated their determination to maintain and further develop the partnership between the two countries based on a long-standing amicable relationship. They also agreed to boost security and defence cooperation.
Prayut told Abe that he was committed to maintaining and improving Thailand's business environment so Japanese enterprises can make long-term investments with ease.
The two leaders achieved no breakthroughs, other than reaffirming the importance of promoting the Dawei Special Economic Zone project through consultation with Myanmar.
Prayut and Abe witnessed the signing of the memorandum of intent on cooperating in the railway sector between their transport ministries as well as a memorandum of cooperation on promoting business. Thailand wants Japan to help develop three rail routes connecting Bangkok with provinces in the West, East and North as well as along East-West Economic Corridor.
The Japanese will be looked after
In a meeting with Japan's Labour Minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki, who also chairs the Thailand-Japan Parliamentary Friendship League, Prayut guaranteed that Japanese tourists and businesses in Thailand would be taken care of and that the government would enforce laws fairly without violating human rights or abusing its authority.
Meanwhile in Tokyo yesterday, Prayut met with Sadayuki Sakakibara, chairman of a business association called Keidanren Sakakibara, with the Japanese telling Prayut that economic ties with Thailand remain important.
Sakakibara said Japan would continue to cooperate with the Kingdom in rail and port infrastructure projects.
In Bangkok, Thanavath Phonvichai, director of the Economic and Business Forecasting Centre, said the prime minister's mission to Japan would help increase Japanese investors' confidence, and tighten cooperation between the two countries in many angles.
Thanavath said the Thai economy could grow by up to 5 per cent this year following closer cooperation with Japan, while Tokyo might foresee greater opportunity to expand trade and investment in Thailand and its neighbouring countries under the Japan-Thailand Economic Partnership Agreement.
The Commerce Ministry said it has targeted exports to Japan increasing 2 per cent this year, after a 1.9 per cent drop last year when they were worth US$21.82 billion (S$29.5 billion). Japan is Thailand's fourth-largest export market, with exports to Japan accounting for 9.6 per cent of the total shipments last year.
Commerce Ministry spokeswoman Duangkamol Jiambutr said exports to Japan were expected to grow due to Japan's economy showing stronger signs of recovering following the government's quantitative-easing programme.