Look beyond 2015, Thai PM urges ASEAN

Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha, in his address to the ASEAN Summit in Nay Pyi Taw yesterday, expressed gratitude to leaders of the group for understanding Thailand's domestic political situation.

He also reaffirmed Bangkok's compliance with all its commitments to the community, offering to take leading roles in ASEAN tasks.

The premier's speech highlighted cooperation within the group to enhance regional connectivity, combating transnational crimes, regional economic integration and disaster management.

ASEAN should have a bright vision for its future after the establishment of the ASEAN Community in 2015, he said, noting that Thailand supported a high-level task force to draft the Post-2015 Vision and other related documents.

The 10 leaders of the regional group yesterday endorsed the "central elements" as a basis to develop the Post-2015 Vision of the ASEAN Community, a step to create a master plan for regional integration and the role of the group over the next decade.

The ASEAN network should build up its strength from inside, Prayut said, for the well-being of its populace. A people-caring organisation should improve healthcare services, promote sustainable development, reduce poverty, promote equality and enhance food security for the benefit of all.

Agriculture was important for all countries in the ASEAN Community and the sector should be strengthened to uplift the lives of farmers as well as to sustain food security, Prayut said.

As ASEAN opened up for regional economic integration, all members should give importance to the development of border areas, he said, with proper border management plans.

ASEAN is currently facing a new landscape of geo-politics in the region, attracting attention from the world's rival powerhouses. The group has to prepare for a changing situation in order to maintain its relevance, as well as ASEAN's centrality in regional security architecture, he said.

Also, the community has to take a prominent role in the international community, to tackle important global issues outside the Southeast Asia region - such as the crisis in the Middle East, he said.

ASEAN should keep a close eye on the outbreak of the deadly virus Ebola. Thailand suggested that health ministers under the cooperative framework of ASEAN+3 should come together to work out how to tackle the problem. Thailand could host a meeting on the matter in December, Prayut proposed.

On the South China Sea, Thailand has been playing the role of coordinator between ASEAN and China to develop a code of conduct in the troubled area where Beijing has been in territorial conflict with some members of ASEAN.

A working group has adopted the first list of "commonality" for elements to be addressed in the code of conduct, proposed during a meeting in Bangkok last month.

Prayut was in Myanmar yesterday and today attends the ASEAN Summit. While in Nay Pyi Taw yesterday he held a bilateral meeting with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss issues of cooperation, including a tri-nation road project linking India-Myanmar-Thailand.