PM Prayut Chan-o-cha addresses Southeast Asia leaders at 38th ASEAN summit

PM Prayut Chan-o-cha joins the ASEAN summit via video | Photo courtesy of the Royal Thai Government

The following is the intervention by PM Prayut Chan-o-cha at the 38th ASEAN summit, delivered via videoconference. The prime minister’s intervention was translated and posted by the Thai government’s public relations department.

“Your Majesty Excellencies,

I wish to thank Brunei Darussalam for hosting this ASEAN Summit amid many challenges facing the region such as the Covid-19 pandemic and the shifting geopolitical landscape. I also warmly welcome the Prime Ministers of the Lao PDR and Malaysia to the ASEAN family. I stand ready to work closely with Your Excellencies and hope to meet face-to-face with you all soon.

I commend Brunei Darussalam for having exceptionally chaired ASEAN under the theme ‘We Care, We Prepare, We Prosper.’ Thailand fully supports this year’s various initiatives such as the ASEAN SHIELD, enhancing cooperation on the blue economy, the Framework for Circular Economy for the ASEAN Economic Community and the development of the ASEAN Community’s Post-2025 Vision including the proposal to task the HLTF to discuss ways to strengthen ASEAN’s capacity and institutional effectiveness. We are committed to working with others to ensure the successful implementation of these initiatives for the benefit of the ASEAN Community in the long term.

It has been nearly two years that we have fought with Covid-19. This crisis has severely affected the lives and livelihoods of our peoples and underlines the vulnerability of our region in coping with emerging threats that may arise beyond our expectations. In light of this, I am of the view that from now on, not only must ASEAN work to address the Covid-19 pandemic and its impacts, but we also need to examine the lessons learnt from this crisis to enhance the ASEAN Community’s resilience and preparedness in response to emerging challenges in the future. Toward this end, I wish to share my thoughts on the following issues that ASEAN should further prioritize.

First, we need to ensure the effective implementation of ASEAN’s initiatives on Covid-19 response. I am pleased with the progress in utilizing the Covid-19 ASEAN Response Fund for vaccine procurement. I hope that ASEAN Member States will receive the vaccines soon and that the remaining funds be used for the procurement of more vaccines in the future. Additionally, Thailand has already provided the list of earmarked items for the ASEAN Regional Reserve of Medical Supplies for Public Health Emergencies and hopes that the Reserve can be operationalized soon.

Looking ahead, ASEAN should further strengthen our preparedness in response to emerging diseases and bolster public health security in the long run, including through promoting cooperation on R&D on vaccines to attain vaccine security and self-reliance in the region. Currently, Thailand is on track in our development of Covid-19 vaccines and we are ready to cooperate with other ASEAN Member States on this matter. However, it is unfortunate that ASEAN could not yet resolve the issue of the host country of the ASEAN Centre for Public Health Emergencies and Emerging Diseases. We should therefore continue our consultations in a constructive manner and try to find an innovative approach to enable ASEAN to make a decision on this issue. Besides being crucial for our credibility and unity, it will also benefit more than 660 million people in the ASEAN region.

Second, ASEAN should start reopening and allowing for safe travel to revive our economies. The ASEAN Travel Corridor Arrangement Framework should be utilized, with mutual recognition of vaccines and vaccine certificates to facilitate business travel, and later tourism. In this context, Thailand has already opened up pilot areas under the Phuket Sandbox and Samui Plus programs to welcome foreign tourists and will gradually open up more areas in other provinces for international tourism from 1 November onwards. Furthermore, we must avoid unnecessary measures that may hinder the movement of goods to ensure our supply chain connectivity during the pandemic and make greater use of the intra-ASEAN market to stimulate our regional economy.

To promote an environment conducive to trade and investment and expand commercial opportunities for our entrepreneurs to help them recover from the impact of Covid-19, I hope that RCEP can enter into force as per the intended timeline. Thailand plans to submit the instrument of ratification for RCEP to the Secretary-General of ASEAN in early November. I also hope that ASEAN-Canada FTA negotiations can be announced soon.

Last but not least, Covid-19 and natural disaster challenges – be they climate change, floods, forest fires or transboundary haze – reflect the weakness of current development approaches that focus primarily on economic interest, while disregarding the impact on the environment and natural resources, which have resulted in intensifying today’s crises. Hence, it is now time for a paradigm shift in our everyday lives and for achieving a ‘Balance of All Things’. This will help make ASEAN’s recovery and development more sustainable, in line with the Bio-Circular-Green or BCG Economy Model which for Thailand will enable the country to reinvent itself for the Next Normal era.

In this context, I believe that an ‘ASEAN Green Agenda’ should be pursued as an approach for our region’s future in promoting sustainable and environmentally-friendly economic growth, by employing green technologies and innovation and prioritizing key issues that are consistent with global trends such as:

1. Transitioning to clean energy to reduce carbon emissions and address global warming and climate change;

2. Efficient use of terrestrial and marine resources to preserve biodiversity which will promote food security and prevent natural disasters including landslides and floods;

3. Digital inclusion to maximize digital technology in various aspects such as smart farming, survey and monitoring of air pollution and climate, sea level rise and windstorms, which is in line with the goal of ‘Digital ASEAN;’

4. Sustainable urban and community development to promote the welfare and well-being of our peoples living in urban and rural areas; and,

5. Green financing to forge a multi-stakeholder partnership to mobilize funds for environmentally-friendly investments.

These issues are not new, but success in their pursuit requires transformation from all sectors, which includes a change in individual behavior, a change in business conduct and community empowerment. We must promote these as the ASEAN Green Agenda in order to raise public awareness and collectively reinvent ASEAN as a progressive region and a sustainable home for all of us as well as for succeeding generations with no one being left behind.

Your Majesty, Excellencies,

In closing, I am pleased to join others in adopting all the outcome documents of this meeting, many of which are indeed consistent with the ASEAN Green Agenda that I mentioned earlier. I also reaffirm Thailand’s commitment to jointly advancing the ASEAN Community and forging greater regional integration so that ASEAN can continue to serve as a major driving force of the global economy and society.”

Thailand News

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