วันศุกร์ที่ 24 พฤษภาคม พ.ศ. 2556

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra Calls on Asia to Direct Its Investments to Build Connectivity

(24/05/2013)

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has proposed that Asia should direct its investments to build connectivity, both on land and sea, since Asia is mostly a large land continent covering two oceans, the Indian, and the Pacific.

In her keynote address at the Nikkei Conference on the Future of Asia, held in Tokyo on 24 May 2013, Prime Minister Yingluck cited rail link as the most effective and efficient on land.

From ASEAN on the Southeast Asian mainland, she said, Asia must build links to North and Northeast Asia, and on the opposite end, to South Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East. A modern Silk Road to connect the region with high speed trains, and feeder tracks for cargo and passengers will become the new Asia-Euro land bridge linking the two continents, while opening up new growth areas along the way.

At the same time, she pointed out that Thailand would continue to develop road links, airports, and sea ports. The Dawei deep seaport in Myanmar will create maritime connectivity within the Indian Ocean, and through land links to Laem Chabang port in Thailand, to connecting South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean.

On the Indian Ocean side, Dawei will link up Southeast Asia with the Middle East and Africa. The port, industrial estate and transport infrastructure will help drive economic growth and development throughout Southeast Asia. Moreover, it will also add value to the production bases in ASEAN of many countries, in particular Japan.

In other words, Prime Minister Yingluck said, Dawei is an investment in the future of Asia. In the long run, it can become a major point for transportation and connectivity to complement other port and industrial estates in Myanmar.

She said that Thailand looks forward to participation from foreign partners for investment and also multilateral institutions, such as the Asian Development Bank, to help consult and assist in this regional project.

The Prime Minister stated that another contribution to the region’s future is Thailand’s 66 billion U.S. dollar in infrastructure development, which includes a high-speed rail link between Thailand, Laos, and China. Thailand plans to link this with infrastructure investment projects of other Asian countries, as well.

She also suggested that Asia promote closer cooperation on win-win issues that will add value to the region as a whole. Such issues include food and energy security. The Prime Minister said that Thailand is restructuring its agriculture production with zonings and post-harvest management to produce higher quality food and at the same time ensure food security, for Thailand, Asia, and the world.

Thailand is also investing in water management system that will provide enough supply for agriculture, industry and household uses. Effective measures to build water and food security, as well as protection against natural disasters, will provide a stronger foundation for growth and social harmony within the Asian region. Complementing this is the issue of energy security which Thailand hopes to achieve through green growth and by relying more on alternative energy. As Asia plans toward the path of sustainable growth, she said, Asia will demand for a large amount of energy.

For Asia, the Prime Minister believed that there is great potential in cooperation between the regions, whereby food could be exchanged for energy between ASEAN countries in Southeast Asia and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in the Middle East.

Also, since a rising Asia is outward-looking, Prime Minister Yingluck stressed that cooperation in trade and investment must also be extended to other regions, such as Africa, which is also rising. That is why Thailand is launching a Thai-African Conference to enhance engagement with Africa. The bottom line is that Asia and other regions: Africa, the Americas, and Europe, need to work together to grow together.

Thailand and Japan Discuss Investment in Dawei Special Economic Zone Project

(24/05/2013)

Thailand and Japan have discussed possible Japanese investment in the Dawei Special Economic Zone project in Myanmar.

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Thailand, Mr. Surapong Tovichakchaikul, discussed the issue with Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan, Mr. Fumio Kishida, on 23 May 2013.

Mr. Surapong is accompanying Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to attend the 19th International Conference on "The Future of Asia," organized by Nikkei Inc. and the Japan Center for Economic Research in Tokyo.

Concerning the Dawei Special Economic Zone project, Mr. Surapong noted that Japan as well as other countries in the region would benefit from the linkage of the Indian and Pacific Oceans through the East-West Economic Corridor, which would lower logistics costs and allow tighter supply chains.

During the discussion, both Mr. Surapong and Mr. Kishida expressed their satisfaction with Thai-Japanese relations and their determination to strengthen this important partnership, which is built not only on mutual economic interests but also shared values. The two sides also exchanged views on regional issues and discussed cooperation to strengthen regional peace and prosperity.

Mr. Surapong expressed Thailand’s wish to step up cooperation with Japan in the area of human resource development to build a more highly skilled workforce in Thailand, which would also benefit Japanese investors. He also hoped to see the participation of the Japanese private sector in Thailand’s 2.2-trillion-baht infrastructure development projects, where emphasis would be on transparency and application of appropriate technologies.

The two sides noted with satisfaction that the 40th anniversary of ASEAN-Japan Dialogue relations in 2013 would be marked by several commemorative activities and were pleased that Prime Minister Yingluck would attend the ASEAN-Japan Commemorating Summit Meeting toward the end of the year.

Mr. Kishida said that Japan was bidding to host the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and hoped to receive Thailand’s support in this endeavor.

Lao PDR Awarded World's Best Tourist Destination

(22-05-2013)

Lao People’s Democratic Republic was recognized as the World's Best Tourist Destination for 2013 by the European Council on Tourism and Trade (ECTT). Tourist arrivals are surging—up 22% on a per annum basis—with last year's estimate at 3.3 million. At present, the tourism sector is the second largest income earner in Lao PDR.

The country received the prestigious citation following its initiatives at preserving culture and history and raising the quality of tourism services. Preservation of the country’s historical, cultural and religious patrimony includes the UNESCO Heritage Sites of  Luang Prabang and 12th century Wat Phu, as well as the Plain of Jars from Neolithic civilization and Wat Xieng Thong. Care to quality of tourism embraces a new concept of community-based tourism that is nature friendly. This comprises facilities and safety for tourists, access and investments to sites of historical and cultural significance, and the benefits of tourism to grassroots communities.

The ECCT, a non-profit organisation which promotes tourism outside the European Union, specified that the “World Best Tourist Destination is  the highest honor  to be awarded for a country for achievements in tourism. This award is offered to the countries that are complying with United Nations Tourism Division, UNESCO and European Council on Tourism and Trade (ECTT) principles on fair tourism, ethical tourism and safety standards and historic preservation of cultural sites.”

Lao, the recipient for this year, has also been conferred other commendations including New York Times' list of world's top tourist destinations.

Myanmar Readies for the ASEAN Chair 2014

(22-05-2013)


Fifteen Myanmar senior diplomats and other senior government officials are currently in Jakarta to prepare the country as Chair of ASEAN 2014. The 13-24 May programme includes consultations with officials from the Republic of Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs – KemLu, the sessions at the ASEAN Secretariat, among others.

The two-week visit is aimed at exchanging expertise and experiences carried out between stakeholders relevant to Myanmar’s ASEAN Chair in 2014. This included:
  • Introduction to working processes and procedures of ASEAN and the ASEAN-Secretariat with focus on the functions of an ASEAN Chair and identification of priority topics and so called “deliverables” of the ASEAN Agenda under the Myanmar chairmanship of ASEAN in 2014;
  • Exchange of experiences on Indonesian Chairmanship in 2011;
  • Consultation with the Committee of Permanent Representatives to ASEAN (CPR) with focus on the expectations associated with the ASEAN Chair and identification of priority topics for Myanmar chairmanship of ASEAN in 2014;
  • Consultation with representatives of  the Plus Three Ambassadors to ASEAN;
  • Discussions with representatives from the EU delegation; and
  • Two-day training module “Public and media relations” focusing on dealing professionally with representatives of international media, requirements (technical, logistical) in the context of media coverage from Myanmar and organising the accreditation process for representatives of international media.
Further, it provides contacts and network of relevant key stakeholders within ASEAN to the training participants for further facilitating their work during the 2014 Chairmanship of Myanmar.

This programme will be completed with a tailor-made two-week training module of the “International Training for Diplomats” program at the Foreign Service Academy of the German Federal Foreign Office in Berlin/Germany and Brussels/Belgium in late June 2013.

The visit of Myanmar delegations is organised by the German Federal Foreign Office commissioned the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ), in close cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia (KEMLU) and the ASEAN Secretariat.

ASEAN Enhances ICT for Disaster Management

(21-05-2013)

The ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management (AHA Centre) initiates the “Establishment of an integrated Information and Communication Technology to strengthen the operation of AHA Centre-Phase II (the AHA Centre ICT-Phase II)”. This 18-month project aims to establish connectivity of the AHA Centre with all of national disaster management offices (NDMOs), to ensure that all necessary data and information can be exchanged between the AHA Centre and NDMOs during disaster and non-disaster situation and to enhance capacity of the AHA Centre related to ICT and connectivity.

This USD 4,926,247 project, supported by the Government of Japan through the Japan-ASEAN Integration Fund (JAIF), will develop special software to facilitate the offer of assistance from ASEAN Member States upon the request of disaster-affected countries in the region and coordination by the AHA Centre. Training programs will also be provided to the staff of both the AHA Centre and NDMOs to manage and operate the ICT system developed under the project. ICT – Phase II is a continuation of Phase I of the AHA Centre’s ICT development funded by the Government of Japan through JAIF. Phase I of the project concentrated on establishing ICT platforms, systems, and equipment for the AHA Centre. These tasks have been accomplished and the AHA Centre now has a fully equipped operations room with sophisticated ICT.

On 17 May, the First Project Steering Committee meeting was held at the AHA Centre. The Steering Committee which consists of Singapore (the Lead Shepherd Country), the AHA Centre, the ASEAN Secretariat and Mission of Japan to ASEAN, performs as a decision making authority with respect to the overall implementation of the project. The meeting discussed the practical steps to move forward the AHA Centre ICT Phase II project, and officially began the ICT-Phase II Project.


It is hoped that the project will enhance disaster response capability of ASEAN and ASEAN member states and further develop the function of the AHA Centre as a regional hub for disaster management in ASEAN region.

ASEAN and Cyprus Reaffirm Commitment

(21-05-2013)

During the courtesy call on ASEAN Secretary-General Le Luong Minh on 20 May 2013, H.E. Andreas Mavroyiannis, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus, congratulated SG Minh for assuming the post and stressed Cyprus' commitment in strengthening relations with ASEAN.

SG Minh and Secretary Mavroyiannis exchanged views on the recent developments in ASEAN and Cyprus. Both agreed on the importance of strengthening relations between ASEAN and EU, and between ASEAN and individual EU member states, including Cyprus.


The Secretary-General of ASEAN is appointed by the ASEAN Summit for a non-renewable term of office of five years, selected from among nationals of the ASEAN Member States based on alphabetical rotation. H.E. Le Luong Minh is from Viet Nam and has been appointed for the 2013 -2017 period.

Tackling Development Gaps in ASEAN

(20-05-2013)

ASEAN and partners have initiated tireless efforts to address the development gap in ASEAN. To promote awareness and understanding on the importance of narrowing the development gap (NDG) in ASEAN, the “NDG Lecture Series” are taking place and the diplomatic community, research institutions, and media took part in the launching of a new publication “Narrowing the Development Gap in ASEAN: Drivers and Policy Options” at the ASEAN Secretariat on 17 May 2013.

With measures based on the universally accepted Human Development Index, the new publication states that this development gap has been narrowing in the last decade, but more needs to be done.

“This new publication will enhance our understanding of the development gaps, provide an important context for decision makers to identify strategic needs of the region, and suggest policy options to narrow the development gap,” said H.E. Le Luong Minh, the Secretary-General of ASEAN.

A collaboration of ASEAN and Australia through the ASEAN-Australia Development Cooperation Programme Phase 2 (AADCP II), the publication communicates the latest findings on the status of progress in ASEAN’s efforts in narrowing the development gap between the newer four Member States (Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Viet Nam) and ASEAN-6.

"Australia's longstanding aid program in this region is an expression of our support to ASEAN's efforts to build a resilient - and equitable - ASEAN Economic Community,” remarked Dr. David Engel, Deputy Head, Mission of Australia to ASEAN.

ASEAN has made great strides towards establishing the ASEAN Community. However, the potential uncertainties in ASEAN remain the current status of development gaps in the region.

“Differences in the level of development can cause inequality and limited opportunities to obtain benefits from an effective integration,” pointed H.E. Vu Dang Dzung, the Permanent Representative of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam to ASEAN and Chair of the IAI Task Force. “It is impossible to build a community if the gaps persist among the member countries.”

Ambassador Rodolfo C. Severino, Head of the ASEAN Studies Centre at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore and Former Secretary-General of ASEAN added how “the ASEAN leaders understood the political, as well as the economic, importance both of building the CLMV countries’ capacity to take part in integrating the region and of regional integration and community building in advancing those countries….The development gap between ASEAN members was accounted for not only by the difference in per-capita income but, more significantly, in terms of human resources and institutional capacity.”

Co-author Professor Mark McGillivray described the uniqueness of the first NDG book ever to have undergone the ASEAN process. The book also serves as a point of reference for ASEAN and partners in understanding the disparities, and seeks to incite further deliberation on policy options to enhance inclusive and equitable growth in the region.

While the book enunciates ASEAN’s efforts in narrowing the development gap and examines development strategies, the NDG Lecture Series explore salient issues in narrowing various forms of development gaps in ASEAN. Convening a set of expert practitioners, academics, and decision-makers, the series create a venue to share theoretical and evidence-based observations, policy suggestions and practical solutions to addressing NDG issues.

The first NDG Lecture Series: Regional Overview and Policy Issues Facing CLMV growth was kicked-off by Dr. Kensuke Tanaka, Head of the Asia Desk of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Centre in March 2013. He elaborated on the main drivers of growth in the Asia and the ASEAN region in particular, the untapped potential of ASEAN’s newer Member States of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Viet Nam, and the policy challenges they each face.

The second NDG Lecture Series: Implementation of Regional Cooperation Initiatives to Narrow the Development Gap and the third NDG Lecture Series No.3: Defining the Gap, Zooming in on the Health Sector were held on 16 and 17 May 2013, respectively. The former tackled the more practical aspects on the modes and systems of development cooperation for NDG in ASEAN, while the latter examined health disparities in ASEAN.

As an active partner of ASEAN, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) knows the importance of effectively delivering the Blueprint measures to build an ASEAN Community. JICA co-organised the second NDG Lecture Series.

“From a development partner perspective, the implementation of ASEAN measures entails involvement of entities, such as the national development planning agencies, alongside line agencies and the national secretariat in member countries,” said Dr. Sachiko Ishikawa, Senior Advisor of the Japan International Cooperation Agency. “This will ensure smooth coordination and achieve effective outputs of projects at the ground level and importantly, sustainability of the outcome.”

But given the CLMV countries’ resource and capacity constraints, there are lessons that can be learned and applied in operationalizing regional programmes’ at the national level. Just as national decisions are required to formulate regional policy, laws are needed to implement them at the country level. National governments must ensure the commitment of required resources to enable local and provincial governments to transpose regional policy into effective and appropriate rules and regulations.

“The nature of regional programmes requires specific actions by national agencies to allow for broad-based support at the country level.” pointed Dr. Peter van Diermen, Chief Technical Adviser, Indonesian National Team for Accelerating Poverty Reduction.

The third installment of the NDG Lecture Series, co-organsied by AusAID, tackled development gap indicators in Health as a case study together with health sector experts Dr. Khanchit Limpakarnjanarat of the World Health Organisation (Indonesia representative) and Dr. Ferdinal Fernando, Head of the Health and Communicable Diseases Division of the ASEAN Secretariat.

Millennium Development Goal indicators show some CLMV countries lagging behind, with more deaths per 1,000 live births among infants, children under five, and women giving birth than most ASEAN-6 countries.
Dr Fernando emphasized that the state of health and non-health related initiatives that are being undertaken in ASEAN act as each other’s enablers and can affect not only the success of initiatives but also the outcomes that can be gained from them. There are several potential points of cooperation between health and non-health sectors to address the development gap. He mentioned convergence in the areas of governance, policy, microfinance, food security, disaster risk management, and social protection. Everyone needs to be involved in what he referred to as a whole-of-government and a whole-of-society approach.

Dr Limpakarnjanarat discussed the World Health Organization’s initiatives in the region and the state of health in the CLMV countries. Apart from the development gap in life expectancy, he tackled existing gaps in ASEAN in terms of human capacity in implementing policies in the sector. CLMV countries require more support to equip them in handling the spread of communicable diseases, including cross-border transmission, testing for HIV and AIDS, and increasing health coverage. “Spending for health is an investment, not an expenditure.”

The ASEAN Secretariat and the WHO have a standing MOU aimed at training ASEAN health officials in various medical fields of technical cooperation where the modalities of collaboration are pursued at the country, regional and global level.


ASEAN's launch of the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) in 2000 was specifically meant to deal with issues on narrowing the divide where equitable and inclusive development will be a defining feature of ASEAN's integration efforts. The IAI Work Plan II (2009-2015) serves as the main tool to remove obstacles standing in the way of an equitable growth path; 42% of its prescribed actions to support CLMV’s integration in the ASEAN Community, including those related to improving health and social protection, are socio-cultural in nature. Other cited activities are related to ASEAN’s economic and political security pillars. Strides have been made in Narrowing the Development Gap in ASEAN, but regional integration could benefit from further well-targeted, concerted efforts.

Promoting Vehicle Fuel Efficiency in ASEAN

(16-05-2013)

ASEAN’s oil use for road transport forecast to grow rapidly in future years, resulting in potentially bringing serious economic, environmental and energy security consequences for Member States. In this regard, ASEAN and the United States are expanding their energy cooperation to promote vehicle fuel efficiency in the region by organising the “U.S.-ASEAN Vehicle Fuel Efficiency Workshop” in Jakarta, Indonesia, this week.
The workshop brought together forty ASEAN Member States officials responsible for energy efficiency and conservation to examine lessons-learned from both the United States’ experience of setting minimum vehicle fuel efficiency standards and the U.S. “Cash-for-Clunkers” program to encourage the removal of inefficient vehicles from the roads. 
“This type of ASEAN-U.S. cooperation represents the way that technical experts from our countries can roll up their sleeves together and talk about practical ideas,” said U.S. Ambassador to ASEAN David L. Carden.  “It is so important for Southeast Asia and the United States to consider the whole picture of how to protect the environment and use fuel resources more efficiently.”
“In the U.S. we have seen government programs promoting vehicle fuel efficiency substantially reduce oil consumption,” said Mr. Tom Cutler, Director of European and Asia Pacific Affairs, U.S. Department of Energy. “It is our sincere hope that by expanding U.S.-ASEAN Energy Cooperation we can assist ASEAN to work through some of the challenges and policy solutions to reduce transportation energy demands while encouraging economic growth,” he added.

The workshop was held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the ASEAN Energy Efficiency & Conservation Sub-Sector Network.  Sessions during the day covered the U.S. experience with transportation energy, removing old vehicles from U.S. roads along with fuel efficiency standards for new vehicles, present and projected transportation energy demands in ASEAN, and presentations by government officials on existing and planned vehicle fuel efficiency programs in ASEAN Member States.

“Efficiency is necessary, both in the form of appeal and regulation, to promote a change of mindset toward the awareness of energy efficiency, “said Mr. Edy Hermantoro, the Director General of Oil and Gas of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources of Indonesia in his Opening Remarks of the workshop.

The workshop was planned as part of the U.S.-ASEAN Energy Cooperation Work Plan and conducted in support of the new United States Asia Pacific Comprehensive Partnership (USACEP), announced in November 2012 at the 7th East Asia Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, by President Obama in partnership with Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei. USACEP offers a framework for expanding energy and environmental cooperation across existing regional forums to advance efforts to ensure affordable, secure, and cleaner energy supplies for the region.

The U.S.-ASEAN Vehicle Fuel Efficiency Workshop was organized by the U.S. Government-funded ASEAN-U.S. Technical Assistance and Training Facility in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy and Department of Transportation, and the Ministry of Energy & Mineral Resources of the Republic of Indonesia.

Co-Chairs’ Press Release ASEAN-EU Senior Officials’ Meeting

(15-05-2013)

The ASEAN-EU Senior Officials’ Meeting was held in Ho Chi Minh City on 14-15 May 2013. The Meeting was co-chaired by H.E. Pham Quang Vinh, Deputy Foreign Minister of Viet Nam and H.E. Viorel Isticioaia-Budura, Managing Director for Asia and the Pacific, European External Action Service (EEAS), EU.

The Meeting reviewed ASEAN-EU cooperation, including the implementation of the Bandar Seri Begawan Plan of Action to Strengthen the ASEAN-EU Enhanced Partnership for the period of 2013-2017 and discussed substantially the future direction and recommended numerous substantive and practical measures to further strengthen the ASEAN-EU Dialogue Relations. In this regard, the Meeting also highlighted the areas of priority for cooperation between ASEAN and the EU. The Meeting also exchanged views on a wide range of international and regional issues of mutual interest such as the East Asian regional architecture, global financial and economic situation, climate change and disaster management, counter-terrorism and transnational crimes, food and energy security, maritime security, human rights cooperation, trade and investment, connectivity, narrowing development gap, etc.

In this regard, the Meeting agreed to enhance the effective implementation of the Plan of Action through, inter alia, prioritising in annual Work Plans the areas of cooperation and in support of ASEAN’s community building and connectivity.

The Meeting also discussed preparations for the ASEAN Post Ministerial Conference (PMC) Session with the EU to be held early July 2013 in Brunei Darussalam. They agreed to hold the next ASEAN-EU Senior Officials’ Meeting and the 20th ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting in 2014 in Europe.

AIPA Pledges Support for ASEAN Community Building Efforts Attention to Green Growth while Narrowing the Development Gap

(14-05-2013)

By:
Danny Lee, Director for Community  Affairs Development at the ASEAN Secretariat & Desi Hanara, AIPA, ASEAN Foundation, AICHR and Entities Associated with ASEAN Division

The delegates from the ASEAN legislatures held active discussions  at the 5th Caucus Meeting of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly on 12 – 13 May 2013. The Caucus is mandated to recommend legislative initiative to harmonize the law of ASEAN countries in the areas of common interest. The Caucus discussed the progress made by each ASEAN Member States in implementing Resolutions adopted at the 33rd AIPA General Assembly in Lombok, Indonesia in 2012. Best practices in the various member states on Green Growth and Poverty Reduction for Sustainable Development were also shared.

During the discussion session, the meeting discussed the three aspects of Green Growth, namely the building of Green Growth legislative capacity; the improvement of the national Green Growth implementation capacity through monitoring, verification and reporting; and the possible integration of joint Green Growth initiative, in particular the Low Carbon Instruments in the ASEAN region. Pertaining to topic of Poverty Reduction, the meeting focused the discussion on 5 aspects, namely poverty reduction policy mainstreaming process; the coordination in implementing poverty reduction policies/programmes, the application of multi-dimensional poverty approach in national policies, international and national resources mobilization for poverty reduction and national coping strategies during economic crisis to support the poor.

“The recommendations at this meeting are important inputs for the 34th AIPA General Assembly in Brunei Darussalam,” said Mr Tran Van Hang, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, National Assembly of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam. “Sustainable development is a goal that many countries in the world as well as AIPA members have been striving for. ASEAN parliamentarians have been maximizing their significant roles in law-making, policy-planning, and incorporating the international commitments in sustainable development into domestic laws,” he noted.
Speaking at the opening of the Caucus a day earlier, ASEAN Secretary-General Le Luong Minh had briefed the meetings on the efforts, challenges, action plans regarding green growth, as well as efforts to tackle this two big issues. He also commended AIPA’s contribution towards the realisation of the ASEAN Community by 2015. He remained optimistic that the 5th AIPA Caucus would be contributing to the enhancement of related legislative and policy initiatives in the region, as well as to the sharing of best practices in the two aforesaid areas in order to improve the citizens' living quality and sustain the national ecosystems.

Host Viet Nam had gave a lot of thought in organising the Caucus.

The highland city of Da Lat was the perfect meeting site. This cool, green city - which is also known as the city of thousands of pines – is a reminder of the many natural  treasures which ASEAN Member States must strive to protect, even when we pursue economic growth and jobs for our people. A popular summer get away for past imperial regimes, Da Lat’s elegant mansions and beautiful hotels completes a serene, beautiful getaway that is vastly different from many bustling ASEAN cities.  The city does not have traffic lights. As you breathe in the cool, crisp air in the chilly morning, you just wonder how the residents manage when many smaller towns and cities are bursting with traffic.

Our young, enthusiastic Liaison Officers is another reminder that policies today will convert into legacies for subsequent generations. Despite their hectic and tiring schedules for the two days, the youngsters delighted their guests, with three beautiful and charming dances. Their charm and good nature were infectious. By the end of the Gala dinner, virtually every guest – regardless of office – were thoroughly “infected” and joined  their young hosts in the singing and dancing.

By the end of the evening, some of us do have one regret. And that is we wished the Caucus had lasted longer than the three short days. We have been smitten by Da Lat.

Twelfth Meeting of The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights

(13-05-2013)

The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) convened its Twelfth Meeting at the ASEAN Secretariat from 6 to 10 May 2013.  The Meeting was chaired by H. E. Pehin Dato Dr. Awang Hj. Ahmad bin Hj. Jumat, the Representative of Brunei Darussalam and the Chair of the AICHR. The AICHR welcomed the new Representative of Cambodia to the AICHR, H.E. Mr. Srun Thirith. The AICHR held several bilateral meetings, including with the Committee of Permanent Representatives to ASEAN (CPR), the Secretary-General of ASEAN, the European Union Special Representative for Human Rights, the Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism and the representatives of relevant ASEAN Sectoral Bodies, namely the ASEAN Committee on Women (ACW) and the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Women and Children (ACWC).

The joint annual meeting between the AICHR and the CPR takes place during the regular AICHR meetings. This practice of a joint annual meeting began in 2010 when the AICHR held its first meeting in the ASEAN Secretariat. The AICHR and the CPR discussed how both ASEAN bodies can work together in the implementation of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD). It was agreed by both parties that a joint event on the AHRD would be held in conjunction with the celebration of the 46th ASEAN Day in August 2013.

With the Secretary-General of ASEAN, H.E. Le Luong Minh, the AICHR discussed how human rights could be mainstreamed into the ASEAN community building efforts with the involvement of all the ASEAN community pillars and the unique role the Secretary-General has with regards to the promotion and protection of human rights. The Secretary-General of ASEAN shared his views on the challenges of ASEAN, which resonated with the challenges faced by the AICHR in the promotion and protection of human rights and the implementation of the AHRD. The Secretary-General also shared the ASEAN Secretariat’s efforts on mainstreaming human rights by conducting human rights training for the ASEAN Secretariat’s staff. He further expressed his readiness to consider the proposal for a dedicated unit to support the work of the AICHR in the context of the reorganisation of the ASEAN Secretariat’s structure.

The AICHR warmly welcomed the EU Special Representative for Human Rights, Mr. Stavros Lambrinidis, and exchanged ideas of possible cooperation between the AICHR and the EU. The AICHR also met with the Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism, led by Dr. Sriprapha Petcharamesree, and was informed of the activities and efforts conducted by the Working Group in support of the AICHR’s mandate. The Working Group reiterated their support to the AICHR in the implementation activities on the AHRD and looked towards further future cooperation.

The Meeting was informed of the latest developments from the work plans of the ACW and the ACWC. The AICHR commended the work of the Sectoral Bodies and discussed how to enhance cooperation in the promotion of human rights and avoid duplication.

The AICHR Meeting finalised the AICHR’s Annual Report for 2013 and their Priority Programmes/Activities for 2014 for submission to the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting in June 2013. The AICHR Representatives also had an extensive discussion on the need to establish a dedicated unit within the ASEAN Secretariat to support more efficiently the increasing work of the AICHR.

The Meeting expressed their appreciation to the ASEAN Secretariat for the hospitality and excellent arrangements. The AICHR plans to conduct a special meeting in August 2013 in Viet Nam.

The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights Meets With the European Union Special Representative for Human Rights

(13-05-2013)

The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) chaired by H.E. Pehin Dato Dr. Awang Hj. Ahmad bin Hj. Jumat, the Representative of Brunei Darussalam and the Chair of AICHR welcomed Mr. Stavros Lambrinidis, the European Union (EU) Special Representative for Human Rights. This was the first dialogue between the AICHR and the newly established EU Special Representative.

Mr. Lambrinidis stated that his meeting with the AICHR symbolises the strong recognition by the EU of ASEAN’s centrality and the AICHR in promoting and protecting human rights in the region, as well as of ASEAN’s evolution on human rights, through the establishment of the AICHR as the first regional human rights mechanism in Asia. He said that human rights are the fundamental cementing block that created the EU, and human rights are now integrated as a component in the EU foreign policy. Although he is mandated to implement the EU’s human rights foreign policy based on a recently adopted strategic framework, Mr. Lambrinidis explained that one of his priorities is to collaborate with regional organisations around the world, including ASEAN through the AICHR.

The meeting exchanged views with Mr. Lambrinidis on the possible cooperation between the AICHR and the EU, and will try to exchange views and communications regularly, in line with the Bandar Seri Begawan Plan of Action to Strengthen the ASEAN –EU Enhanced Partnership (2013 – 2017). The meeting discussed developing a concrete work programme of cooperation covering several areas, such as the fulfilment of the AICHR Five Year Work Plan, and the implementation of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD).
The AICHR and the EU Special Representative were appreciative of the opportunity to meet and wished for continued regular communication.

ASEAN Regional Forum Gears Up for a Stronger Civil Military Coordination and Disaster Relief Operation

(13-05-2013)

The ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) members, including the ten ASEAN Member States, gathered for the third ARF Disaster Relief Exercise (DiREx) in Cha-am, Phetchaburi, Thailand from 7 to 10 May 2013. Using a scenario of 8.9-magnitude earthquake and typhoon, disaster management agencies and emergency responders from civil and military institutions of ARF members exercise their coordination and disaster relief mechanisms. Key actors in disaster relief operation in the Asia and Pacific region, including the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assitance on disaster management (AHA Centre), the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) and the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, also actively participate in this event.

For the purpose of the exercise, AHA Centre manages an on-site coordination centre, to provide assistance for emergency rapid assessment, facilitate information sharing, and coordinate with ASEAN Member States on resources deployed. The ASEAN-Emergency Rapid Assessment Team (ASEAN-ERAT), which consists of experienced assessment personnels from ASEAN Member States, were also deployed to the field exercise to simulate post-disaster assessment and provide detailed information from the field to the Emergency Operations Centre led by the Government of Thailand.  The AHA Centre’s onsite coordination centre is co-located with the United Nations (UN) On-Site Operations Coordination Centre (OSOCC). ASEAN-ERAT is also deployed together with the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) Team managed by the UN OCHA.

ARF DiREx 2013 focuses on inter-agency coordination and civil-military coordination. “ARF DiREx is unique as it is by far the most inclusive simulation exercise in the Asia Pacific region. ARF DIREX involves multiple agencies from the ARF members, the civilian and military actors and the international humanitarian players. Coordination issues and complexity of the international humanitarian architecture as exercised in ARF DiREx represent the actual situation when a disaster occurs in the region. Therefore, this unique character of inclusiveness should be mantained in future exercises as part of ARF’s efforts to improve civil military coordination and disaster relief operations among the ARF participants”, Ms. Adelina Kamal, the Head of Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance (DMHA) Division of ASEAN Secretariat said during the after-action review.

“ARF DiREx provides as a good opportunity to exercise our ASEAN’s disaster response procedures and mechanisms”, remarked Said Faisal, the Executive Director of AHA Centre. “From this exercise, we are able to identify some useful lessons to improve our support to the ASEAN Member States  and strengthen coordination with other humanitarian players in real disaster situations.” It is the first time for the AHA Centre to play a significant role in the ARF DiREx, following the official launch of the Centre at the 19th ASEAN Summit in November 2011.

Sharing his views on the on-site coordination centre managed by the AHA Centre, Pengiran Hj Shaharuddin Bin Pengiran Hj Metali, a delegate from Brunei Darussalam reflects on his past deployment experience, “I have been deployed to some disaster response missions before, and we did not have such an onsite coordination centre. Now disaster responders from the ASEAN Member States can have a place where we can report to, a workspace, a place where we can get to know responders from our neighboring countries, and where we can get the information that we need. This will help us work better. ”

The event is co-hosted by the Kingdom of Thailand and the Republic of Korea. ARF DiREx is held on a bi-annual basis to strengthen civil-military coordination and disaster relief operation among the 27 ARF members.

ASCC Department Holds Strategic Planning Workshop

(13-05-2013)

In preparation for the ASEAN Community in 2015, the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) Department of the ASEAN Secretariat held its strategic planning workshop this month in Bogor, Indonesia. The workshop aimed to assess the Department’s capacity and articulate opportunities in the Department’s role in assisting in the implementation of the Roadmap to the ASEAN Community 2015, specifically the ASCC Blueprint.

The ASCCD workshop was participated by all the core ASEC staff, including the Project Officers and Attachment Officers. Through the 3-day workshop, the ASCC Department undertook organisational analysis as well as discussed the strategy maps and a balanced scorecard --- at the division, directorate and department levels. Key measures discussed include: setting clearer directions and focus areas for greater implementation and visibility; strengthening intra-department as well as inter-pillar coordination; and initiating and sustaining learning and growth opportunities for the staff.

The workshop is part of the overall efforts of the ASCC to enhance the implementation, oversight and monitoring of the ASCC Blueprint. Aside from strengthening the utility of the ASCC Scorecard and the ASCC Blueprint Implementation-focused Monitoring System, a mid-term review of the implementation of the ASCC Blueprint will also be undertaken this year to assess ASCC’s progress and to provide recommendations towards ASCC’s effective contribution towards the realization of an ASEAN Community by 2015.

วันพฤหัสบดีที่ 23 พฤษภาคม พ.ศ. 2556

Please be careful of tourist scams!

(15-05-2013)


Buddhist Leaders Urged to Promote Education

(23/05/2013)

The Bangkok Declaration of the Tenth Anniversary Celebrations of the United Nations Day of Vesak calls on Buddhist leaders to strengthen their ongoing noble mission to promote education, as well as social and humanitarian development for sustainable world peace.

The Bangkok Declaration was issued at the conclusion of the celebrations and meetings of Buddhist leaders and representatives from 87 countries in Thailand on 21-22 May 2013.

The celebrations took place at the United Nations Conference Center in Bangkok and Buddhamonthon in Nakhon Pathom province to commemorate the Day of Vesak, or Visakha Puja, coinciding with 24 May this year.

In the Bangkok Declaration, the Buddhist leaders and representatives resolved to work tirelessly for universal education in the 21st century, emphasizing the integration of wisdom and compassion in caring for the environment, cultivating synergy between school subjects and disciplines, and incorporating ethics and a sense of community to the existing approach for acquiring skills for economic and social development.

They will reinforce the Buddhist path of non-violence, by facing the many challenges to peaceful co-existence, with a conviction that is stronger than ever before, reaffirming their determination to maintain cultural and religious harmony and tolerance through upholding human dignity.

They resolved to take the opportunity of the Day of Vesak gathering to encourage Buddhists to be more proactive in promoting peace, which is so central to the teachings of the Buddha, and in particular, spreading the Buddha’s wisdom on the inter-connectedness of all humans as a global family and the shared consequences of their actions.

All governmental and non-governmental organizations were urged to strive toward sustainable economic and social development, stressing the need to balance such development with the preservation of the environment.

The Buddhist leaders and representatives will strengthen efforts to promote the message of the inter-being of humankind, through encouraging individuals and organizations to develop the perspective of being global citizens as they address important issues in their work together. They will also promote the ethical use of mindfulness in a universally applicable manner, in such fields as healthcare, education, management, and community development.

Moreover, the Buddhist leaders and representatives resolved to do the utmost to contribute towards achieving the goal of the ASEAN Community in 2015, calling upon the strength of the unity within the diversity of the Buddhist community that has been fostered by the International Council for the Day of Vesak.

Also in the Bangkok Declaration, His Holiness Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara, Supreme Patriarch of Thailand, on the auspicious occasion of his 100th birth anniversary, has been commended for the work he has accomplished to uplift humanity, particularly in the areas of education, spirituality, and healthcare.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra Visits Japan

(22/05/2013)

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is on a working visit to Japan from 22 to 25 May 2013 for the 19th International Conference on “The Future of Asia” in Tokyo.

The visit is at the invitation of Nikkei Inc, the host of this event. The conference is a forum that each year brings together political leaders and top business executives to discuss the future of Asia-Pacific nations and how development in the region stands to impact the global economy. It is held annually by Nikkei and the Japan Center for Economic Research.

On this occasion, Prime Minister Yingluck is scheduled to have an audience with Crown Prince Naruhito of Japan and meet Prime Minister Shinso Abe on 23 May, when she also delivers a keynote speech on “Investing in the Future of Asia” at the conference.

The Prime Minister will share her vision on the future direction of Asia as a continuously growing and strengthening region. She will raise possible issues of challenge that may slow down Asian growth as well as possible solutions that Asian countries can join forces in solving and tackling such challenges, so that the future of Asia will not be harmed.

Prime Minister Yingluck intends to boost confidence of Japanese business people and encourage them to maintain and expand their production base in Thailand. She will reiterate strategic partnership between Thailand and Japan and ensure that the Thai government would facilitate Japanese investments in Thailand.

Thai-Japanese cooperation in the development of the Dawei Special Economic Zone and deep sea port in Myanmar will also be raised for discussion.

Accompanying Prime Minister Yingluck on this trip are OTOP and SME operators from Thailand who will observe product development and marketing channels in Japan. The Prime Minister will also meet the President of the Long Stay Business Association of Japan and discuss with Japanese representatives a project on older persons.

She will return to Bangkok at 10:30 p.m. on 25 May.

Thailand Rice Convention 2013

(22/05/2013)

The Department of Foreign Trade, Ministry of Commerce, is scheduled to organize Thailand Rice Convention 2013 between 26 and 28 May 2013 in the northern province of Chiang Mai.

The three-day event will take place at the International Convention and Exhibition Center Commemorating His Majesty’s 7th Cycle Birthday Anniversary in Mueang district.

Participating in the convention will be about 500 delegates from 40 countries worldwide. They comprise representatives from rice-producing and exporting countries, rice importers and traders, academics, and rice experts, as well as members of the Thai and international media.

The convention is intended to serve as a forum for players in rice trade to meet and exchange views, which will contribute to the development of the global rice industry. It will provide an opportunity for rice importers and exporters to hold trade negotiations, as well.

Moreover, the Thailand Rice Convention is also meant to bring a positive signal to the global rice trade and spotlight Thailand’s readiness to become a rice hub in ASEAN and the world. It will showcase the quality and efficiency of technological advances in production, trade, and development of the Thai rice industry.

The theme for Thailand Rice Convention 2013 is “Pushing ASEAN toward the World’s Rice Hub,” which reflects Thailand’s intention to cooperate with other rice countries in the region to make ASEAN the world’s rice center.

The convention features a seminar, with panel discussions and lectures by experts and high-ranking officials from Thailand and other ASEAN countries. It also includes an exhibition of Thai rice, especially organic and pigmented rice (riceberry), which contains high nutritional value.

The seminar to be held on 27 May, after the opening ceremony, consists of five sessions: Thailand’s Rice Marketing Strategy, Trade Aspect of Asian Rice Market, ASEAN Rice Production and Export Potential, Overview of Organic Rice Market and How to Access the European Market, and World Rice Trade Outlook.

On 28 May, a field trip will also be arranged, giving international delegates the opportunity to observe rice cultivation and production at Maejo University in Chiang Mai.
Thailand is among the world’s largest rice producers and exporters. Thai jasmine rice, known in full as “Khao Hom Mali Thung Kula Ronghai,” has become the first product in Southeast Asia to be registered under the European Union's Protected Geographical Indication scheme.

The Department of Foreign Trade has set a target of 8.5 million tons for Thai rice exports in 2013. The Ministry of Commerce is also conducting a study on the creation of a rice trade zone in order to stabilize rice prices in the world market, promote regional food security on a sustainable basis, and prevent rice smuggling from the countries sharing borders with Thailand.

Chiang Mai Declaration Seeks to Include Disaster Risk Reduction in the UN Development Agenda beyond 2015

(21/05/2013)

The second Asia-Pacific Water Summit has ended, with the issuance of the Chiang Mai Declaration, calling for the inclusion of disaster risk reduction in the United Nations' development agenda beyond 2015.

The Heads of State and Government and the high-level representatives from 40 countries attending the summit in Chiang Mai on 20 May 2013 reiterated the importance of water as an essential part of human life, human security, environment, and economy.

In the Chiang Mai Declaration, they recalled that 2005-2015 is the United Nations International Decades for Action “Water for Life,” and that 2013 is the United Nations International Year of Water Cooperation. They also emphasized that water development and management should be based on a participatory approach, involving users, planners, and policy-makers at all levels and that women have the pivotal role in the provision, management, and safeguarding of water.

According to the Chiang Mai Declaration, the participating Heads of State and Government and the high-level representatives declared to promote efficient use of water resources while taking into account basic human needs, including domestic, industrial, and agriculture water users, and balancing preservation of ecosystems.

As part of the plans to promote the efficiency of water use, they also call for the improvement of irrigation systems in the agricultural sector, which consumes a huge volume of water resources. They recognized that sustainability of food production increasingly depends on sound and efficient water management and that the need to increase sustainable agricultural production is closely linked to the development and management of water resources on an integrated basis.

This 1st Asia-Pacific Water Summit, was held in Beppu, Oita Prefecture, Japan in 2007, and the second on took place on 19 – 20 May 2013 in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Asia and the Pacific region is recognized as the most disaster-prone region in the world, and that water-related disasters, including floods and droughts, in the region continue to increase in intensity and frequency.

In 2011, Thailand suffered its worst floods in more than half a century.

Thailand’s Economic Growth for the First Quarter of 2013

(21/05/2013)

The Thai economy in the first quarter of 2013 expanded by 5.3 percent, a drop from 19.1 percent registered in the fourth quarter of 2012.

As a result of the lower-than-expected growth in the first quarter, the Office of National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) has revised the economic growth forecast for the whole of 2013 to 4.2-5.2 percent from 4.5-5.5 percent.

NESDB Secretary-General Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said that the sluggish expansion in the Thai economy was a result of a slowdown in both domestic and external demands. Household consumption rose by 4.2 percent, compared with 12.4 percent in the previous quarter. Consumption of such durable goods as automobiles grew steadily, while that of non-durable goods and services was on the decline.

Public sector consumption grew by 2.2 percent, against 12.5 percent in the previous quarter. Investment expanded by 6 percent, a decline from 22.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012. Private investment increased by 3.1 percent, while public sector investment increased by 18.8 percent.

Imports in the first quarter came to 56,402 million dollars, an increase of 7 percent, compared with 14.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012. The price of imports continued to decline by 1.8 percent, compared with a contraction of 0.4 percent in the previous quarter. This was due to the decline in the prices of global crude oil, gold and gems. In terms of Thai baht, the value of imports grew by 3.1 percent.

The NESDB Secretary-General pointed out that economic management in the remaining quarters of 2013 should take into consideration the weakening economic momentum and ensure that the stability of the baht would be in line with the country’s economic fundamentals. Prices of major goods, especially energy, construction materials, and agricultural raw materials, should be well-managed in line with the movement of exchange rates. This would help soften inflationary pressure and support economic recovery, as well as warding off fluctuations in major markets that are sensitive to capital inflow.

Emphasis should also be placed on accelerating relief measures for small and medium-sized enterprises to ease impacts from the appreciation of the baht, rising labor costs, and prolonged economic contraction in eurozone.

Moreover, the public sector management should be enhanced, as well, in order to improve the efficiency of the overall economic system.

Exports between January and March 2013 were valued at 56,181 million US dollars, an increase of 4.5 percent, against 18.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012. The decline in exports was resulted from a slowdown in global demand and the stronger baht. Export items that saw an increase included automobiles, electrical appliances, metal products, and rice, and tapioca. Major export markets are the United States, the European Union, Japan, ASEAN countries, China, Hong Kong, and Australia.

Thailand and the United Kingdom Agree to Further Promote Investment-Friendly Conditions

(21/05/2013)

Thailand and the United Kingdom have agreed to further promote investment-friendly conditions, as well as to eliminate trade impediments and ease necessary regulations.

The agreement was reached at the first session of the Thailand-United Kingdom Strategic Dialogue, held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangkok on 20 May 2013. The session was co-chaired by the Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs of Thailand, Mr. Jullapong Nonsrichai, and the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in the United Kingdom, the Right Honourable Hugo Swire.

In the joint press release for the session, the two co-chairs exchanged views on a number of bilateral issues of common interest, including the promotion of two-way trade and investment, tourism promotion and tourist safety, defense and security cooperation, education and training, and the exchange of knowledge and best practices in areas such as creative economy, as well as science and technology.

On the economic front, the two sides reviewed the growing two-way trade and investment, where the United Kingdom continues to be one of Thailand’s largest trading partners in the European Union. Both sides shared the view that the current bilateral trade volume could be increased substantially. The meeting suggested that both Governments look into doubling the current bilateral trade volume by 2018.

The two co-chairs recognized the important role that the United Kingdom could play in enhancing English language training and teaching in Thailand, in light of Thailand’s efforts to strengthen national competitiveness and readiness for the formation of the ASEAN Community in 2015.

Thailand expressed its profound appreciation for the United Kingdom’s support, through the British Council, on several ongoing projects in collaboration with the Ministry of Education of Thailand. The British side also reaffirmed the British Council’s commitment to provide assistance in this regard.

Another key deliverable of the meeting is the agreement for further discussion with relevant partners in the UK on the introduction of the “Premier Skills” Project, which was previously proposed by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to her British counterpart during her official visit to the United Kingdom in November 2012. The project is designed to develop necessary skills, such as leadership and the English language, through football training for Thai youths, particularly in the southern border provinces of Thailand.

The two co-chairs also expressed appreciation for the dynamic flow of people-to-people contacts and pledged to promote the safety and security of tourists and residents alike. Visas were seen as one of the key factors in facilitating or impeding the flow of people, and so both sides agreed that immigration regulations should aim to be straightforward and transparent to help genuine tourists, business visitors, students and residents.

The two delegations also welcomed the signing of the MOU on SME Cooperation between the Office of SME Promotion and United Kingdom Trade and Investment (UKTI), which is aimed at promoting collaboration between Thai and British SMEs, as well as the MOU between the Royal Mint and the Royal Thai Mint to enhance Thailand’s capacity in becoming a regional hub for production and distribution of coins.

The two co-chairs also welcomed positive developments in the realm of defense, particularly the re-opening of a fully functional Office of the British Defense Attaché and the re-establishment of a resident British Defense Attaché post in Bangkok. Thailand also welcomed the announcement by the British Royal Navy that HMS Daring, one of the most advanced destroyers in the Royal Navy, is scheduled to visit Thailand in January 2014.

The two delegations encouraged the Royal Thai Navy and the British Royal Navy to explore possible joint activities to commemorate the occasion and step up their partnerships.

Educational and Employment Development Emphasized in Handling the Southern Situation

(20/05/2013)

Educational and employment development in the deep South have been emphasized by the Government in handling the southern situation.

The issue was raised for discussion during a meeting of security officials and representatives of related agencies at Government House, chaired by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on 17 May 2013.

The Ministry of Education told the meeting that various education projects had been implemented in the deep South, based on the concept that they must equip local residents with knowledge and experience that enable them to be engaged in occupations.

Another important point is that educational development must create better understanding that Buddhist and Muslim Thais can study together without any discrimination. The Government has facilitated the use of the local Malay language at local educational institutions. The Ministry of Education has encouraged schools in the deep South to apply bilingual education methods in a bid to improve academic performance and create a more positive attitude among parents toward schooling. As Thailand is moving toward the ASEAN Community 2015, English communication is also emphasized in various schools.

Regarding security for local teachers, security officials have stepped up measures to increase protection for teachers and ensure that local students would be able to have access to education on a continual basis, without fear of any dangers. They have received good cooperation from the Confederation of Teachers of Southern Border Provinces in implementing security measures. Following the eruption of southern unrest nine years ago, a number of teachers were killed and local schools were also set on fire by a network of perpetrators.

As for the schools that were burned down, the Secretary-General of the National Security Council of Thailand, Lieutenant General Paradorn Pattanatabut, said that the Government plans to rebuild them. Both the affected state and private hospitals are seeking budget allocations for the project, which also includes the construction of dormitories, multi-purpose buildings, and classrooms.

The Government has a policy to promote general education together with religious studies and vocational education in the southern border provinces. After local students finished their studies, wider job opportunities should be opened for them. With greater opportunities for employment, the Government believes that southern young people will not be misled into instigating instability.

The education management in the deep South has now become more flexible in accordance with the lifestyle of predominantly Muslim communities.

Government’s Future Water Management Plan

(20/05/2013)

Deputy Prime Minister Plodprasop Suraswadi has stressed that Thailand will be able to change the flood crisis in 2011 into an opportunity for improving water management.

Speaking in the weekly program “Yingluck Government Meets the People” on 18 May 2013, Mr. Plodprasop touched on the issue of the 2nd Asia-Pacific Water Summit in Chiang Mai province, scheduled for 14-20 May 2013. He also referred to the prolonged and widespread flooding in Thailand in 2011.

He pointed out that damage from the flooding was estimated at 1.4 trillion baht and that Thailand had never had an integrated water management system to cope with the situation. The Government has therefore come up with an integrated approach to water management and flood prevention, which would also deal with drought.

Mr. Plodprasop explained that the plan is part of Thailand’s management as well, so that the best water management system would be put in place. The plan involves an investment of 350 billion baht, or 11.5 billion US dollars, in a well-integrated water management infrastructure and flood prevention system.

He said that relevant agencies would have to adjust their regular budget allocations to be in line with the 350-billion-baht investment plan. Earlier, he said, these agencies had their own ways to deal with water problems. From now on, they will need to work closely together and cooperate with the Ministry of Transport in ensuring that road construction would not block water channels.

According to the Rapid Assessment and Resilient Recovery and Reconstruction Planning report, prepared by the World Bank, the total damage and losses from the 2011 floods in Thailand amounted to 1.43 trillion baht, or 46.5 billion US dollars. The manufacturing sector bore roughly 70 percent of the total damage and losses. Overall, about 90 percent of the damage and losses from the 2011 floods were borne by the private sector.

As part of its water management plan, the Government has established a single command center for unified operations in water management. The single command authority is responsible for coordinating water management work, and 17 agencies dealing with water management in the country are now working in the center.

The water management plan is divided into four phases: protection, preparation, response, and recovery.

Regarding long-term solutions, the Government had issued a royal decree empowering the Ministry of Finance to seek a loan of 350 billion baht for water management on a sustainable basis. It had worked out Thailand’s water management strategies and invited interested local and foreign consulting firms to propose plans for Thailand’s overall water management.

The Government has also adopted His Majesty the King’s advice on effective water management as guidelines for the country’s water management in the future.

Media Representatives from ASEAN to Have First-Hand Information about Southern Situation

(19/05/2013)

A group of 15 Muslim media representatives from ASEAN is on a visit to Thailand from 19 to 25 May, as part of the “Media Familiarization Trip to Thailand” program for 2013. They will visit the deep South, as well, to get first-hand information about the southern situation.

Organized by the Government Public Relations Department, the program is aimed at promoting better understanding about Thailand among Muslim journalists and widening opportunities for greater cooperation in all areas between Thailand and the Muslim world. The 15 media representatives are from four countries, namely Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore.

While in Bangkok, the group will call on Mr. Aziz Pitakkumphol the Sheikhul Islam of Thailand, and have a study tour of Bangkok Hospital to observe the operations of the hospital in response to the Thai government’s policy of developing Thailand into a regional medical hub and expanding the medical market in Muslim countries in ASEAN, ahead of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015.

They will spend three days in the southern provinces of Songkhla and Satun on May 20-22 to observe development work and learn about the local way of living at Ban Muang Ngam community in Songklha and Ban Hua Thang community in Satun. Ban Muang Ngam is a good example of multicultural and empowered communities, with healthy interaction between Buddhist and Muslim residents, while Ban Hua Thang is a pilot village under the “community policing” project, which is an innovative approach and a model for resolving the violent situation in the three southern border provinces of Thailand.

Thailand places the resolving of the southern situation as one of the country’s national priorities. Apart from adopting the “politics leads the military” approach in peace-building operations in the South, It has also focused on a development-led approach in eradicating poverty and providing greater opportunities for local people.

The Government has always maintained a policy of expanding cooperation in all fields with Muslim nations in all parts of the world – Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, Central Asia, Africa, and even those in Southern Europe. It supports the development of a stronger Thai Muslim community in many aspects, including education and religious affairs.

More than half of ASEAN’s 580 million people are Muslim. Thailand is home to eight million Muslims across the country. Muslims of Malay descent are concentrated in the southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat, Satun, and four districts of Songkhla.

Thailand Recognized for Its Role in Promoting the Rights of the Disable

(19/05/2013)

Thailand has been recognized for its commitment to promoting the rights of persons with disabilities. The Thai government hosted a regional consultation of Asia-Pacific countries on 15-16 May 2013, when Thailand presented its report under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process in the Thai Braille version.

This publication would enhance accessibility and engage the visually impaired in Thailand’s UPR process.

The regional consultation was carried out under the theme “The Way Forward: Asia-Pacific Regional Consultation on a Disability-Inclusive Development Agenda towards 2015 and Beyond.” It was organized as part of the preparation for the High-level Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on the realization of the Millennium Development Goals and other internationally-agreed development goals for persons with disabilities, to be held in New York in September 2013.

Over 100 representatives of ESCAP member governments, civil society, and the private sector, many of whom are persons with disabilities themselves, participated in the meeting. A notable aspect of the meeting was its accessibility to persons with various forms of disabilities, such as visual and hearing impairment. Mr. Santi Promphat, Minister of Social Development and Human Security, Mr. Shun-ichi, Murata, Deputy Executive Secretary and Officer in charge of the ESCAP Secretariat; H.E. Mr. James Wise, the Australian Ambassador to Thailand, and Ms. Julia Fraser the regional representative of the World Bank, delivered their statements at the opening ceremony.

The meeting also benefited from the views expressed by the participating international and Thai experts on the issues of disabilities, including Mr. Monthian Buntan, Thai Senator and member of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; Mr. Hyun-shik Kim, member of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities from the Republic of Korea; and, H.E. Mr. Libran Cabactulan, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Philippines to the United Nations in New York, who will be a co-facilitator of the upcoming High-level Meeting in New York.

The participants, who represented stakeholders from all sectors, exchanged views on ways to advance the rights of persons with disabilities at both the regional and international levels.

In particular, the meeting recognized the significant contribution of the Incheon Strategy to the promotion and protection of the rights of persons with disabilities in the Asia-Pacific region. Moreover, the participants recognized the importance of disability-inclusive development, especially when disability was absent from the discussion on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

They strongly urged Member States of the United Nations to include the issue of disability in the post-2015 development agenda. The meeting was also a good opportunity to discuss challenges on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and to reiterate the importance of participation from civil society.

Thailand Set to Become the World's Buddhist Center

(17/05/2013)

Thailand has set itself the goal of becoming the world’s center of Buddhist activities and studies. The Cabinet has resolved to support the establishment of Thailand as the recognized center for Buddhism.

It assigned the Office of National Buddhism to serve as the core agency in coordinating with the Sangha, as well as related organizations and individuals in working out details of the project.

The concept is that, as the world Buddhist center, Thailand will serve as the international coordinating center for Buddhist countries in the overall picture and in terms of information and contact between specific groups.

In its role as the center for Buddhism, Thailand would hold conferences, seminars, meetings, and training in various Buddhist buildings and temples, which would be equipped with sufficient facilities to accommodate visitors. It will also serve as the center for Buddhist research and studies and an ideal location for spiritual exercise and renewal.

The world Buddhist center should attract people inside and outside the country interested in conducting various joint activities. In this regard, existing buildings, such as auditoriums, museums, libraries, and hostels should be developed in accordance with the management of the world Buddhist center.

Meanwhile, the Thai government and various Buddhist organizations are holding a Buddhism promotion week between 18 and 24 May 2013 to mark the “World Day of Vesak,” or Visakha Puja, the holiest day of the year for Buddhists everywhere. The Day of Vesak falls on the full day of the sixth lunar month, coinciding with 24 May this year.

Minister to the Prime Minister’s Office Niwattunrong Boonsongpaisan said that the celebration of Visakha Puja 2013 is meant to pay tribute to Their Majesties the King and Queen and Members of the Royal Family. It is also to commemorate the 100th birthday anniversary of His Holiness Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara, the Supreme Patriarch of Thailand, on 3 October 2013.

Activities planned during the Buddhism promotion week will take place at Buddhamonthon in Nakhon Pathom, Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University in Ayutthaya, Sanam Luang in Bangkok and various temples. An international Buddhist conference will be held on 21-22 May at the United Nations Conference Center in Bangkok.

In his message on the occasion of Visakha Puja 2013, His Holiness the Supreme Patriarch of Thailand urged Buddhists to practice Dhamma for peace and happiness for themselves and the country. He said that the Buddhist principles could be condensed into three major guidelines: to do good, to abstain from bad, and to purify the mind.

For the Buddhism promotion week at Sanam Luang ceremonial site, His Majesty the King has presented his personal Buddha relics for the people to pay homage to. Moreover, various Dhamma activities for the new generation have also been organized during the period.

Chiang Mai Declaration to Be Presented at the 2nd Asia-Pacific Water Summit

(16/05/2013)

Chiang Mai province in the North is the venue for the 2nd Asia-Pacific Water Summit, hosted by the Thai government in collaboration with the Asia-Pacific Water Forum, from 14-20 May 2013. At the end of the summit, the Chiang Mai Declaration will be issued jointly by participating Asia-Pacific leaders.

The Cabinet has approved the draft Chiang Mai Declaration, proposed by Deputy Prime Minister Plodprasop Suraswadi, who chairs the Water and Flood Management Commission.

The Chiang Mai Declaration is not an agreement and has no legal commitments. Yet it shows the intention of the Asia-Pacific leaders, who are aware of the importance of water resources and will cooperate in water management for the maximum benefit and help one another in times of water-related disasters.

The draft declaration will be submitted to the Leaders’ Forum, which is to be held on 20 May. The forum follows the Focus Area Sessions, scheduled for 19 May, when representatives and experts from relevant organizations and other stakeholders discuss issues of water security and water-related disaster challenges in the Asia-Pacific region. Technical workshops are being held between 14 and 18 May and exhibitions from 14 to 20 May.

The 2nd Asia-Pacific Water Summit takes place at the International Convention and Exhibition Center Commemorating His Majesty’s 7th Cycle Birthday Anniversary. More than 2,000 political leaders, high-ranking officials, and water experts from 37 countries in the Asia-Pacific are joining the summit.

Chiang Mai Governor Tanin Subhasaen said that discussions at the summit focus on seven major topics, namely Economic, Food, and Water Security, Urban Water Security, Environmental Water Security, Water-related Disaster Challenges, Household Water Security, Water Risks and Resilience, and Integrated Water Resources Management Process for a Water Secure World. He said that Chiang Mai had prepared to address problems concerning floods and droughts faced by the province and strategies for dealing with the issues.

The President of the Republic of Tajikistan, Mr. Emomali Rahmon, will give a keynote address on 19 May. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra will host a welcome dinner on 19 May. On 20 May, she will deliver the opening remarks and a keynote address on “Disaster and Response: Thailand’s Action and Commitment to Water and Flood Management for the Future.” The keynote address will be followed by statements of heads of state and heads of government.

At the closing ceremony, there will be the presentation of the Chiang Mai Declaration and concluding remarks by Mr. Plodprasop Suraswadi, Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of Water and Flood Management Commission of Thailand.

The general public is welcome to the exhibitions, held at the Royal Initiatives Pavilion, and to water-related technology and trade show exhibition booths.

Public and Private Sectors Joining Hands to Stabilize the Baht

(15/05/2013)

The public and private sectors share similar views on the appreciation of the baht and they are working together to curb the stronger baht.

The Cabinet, during its meeting on 14 May 2013, acknowledged the results of the meeting held on 13 May to discuss impacts of the stronger baht on the Thai economy.

The meeting to address the baht issue was called by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong. Participating in the meeting were representatives of the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Commerce, the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of Thailand, the Office of the National Economic and Social Development Board, the Thai Bankers Association, the Federation of Thai Industries, the Board of Trade of Thailand, and the Tourism Council of Thailand.

The meeting agreed that the currency’s appreciation would adversely affect exports, tourism, and the overall economy and that joint operations by relevant agencies would help stabilize the baht and maintain Thailand’s competitiveness.

In order to deal with the situation, the private sector urged the public sector to ease the slowdown in exports and provide assistance to manufacturers and exporters. It proposed that the Government consider pushing for the baht as a major regional trading currency.

In tackling labor shortages, especially skilled labor, the public sector was urged to reduce obstacles to labor movement in the region and to expand vocational education. The private sector also called for various infrastructure projects, particularly those concerning energy, in order to meet the demand in the production sector.

As the baht has become stronger, more production industries have turned to seek raw materials overseas. This has an effect on relevant industries, especially auto part manufacturing. In this regard, the private sector asked the Government to promote the use of more domestic raw materials for local industries.

The Government was also urged to consider exempting value added tax (VAT) for industries that sell products to exporters. It was asked to allow exporters who receive foreign currencies from their businesses to pay in foreign currencies, without having to change them into baht.

The private sector called on the Government to offer loan sources with low interest rates in order to support product development. It also urged the Government to reduce tariffs for gem and jewelry imports for exhibitions in Thailand.

Moreover, the Bank of Thailand was asked to disseminate information about comparisons between the baht and other currencies, especially the Japanese yen.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra instructed Mr. Kittiratt to call meetings to address the baht issue on a continual basis in an effort to deal effectively with the appreciation of the baht.

Official Visit of President of Tajikistan to Thailand

(15/05/2013)

The President of the Republic of Tajikistan, Mr. Emomali Rahmon, will pay an official visit to the Kingdom of Thailand on 17 – 19 May 2013 as guest of the Royal Thai Government.

This is the second official visit of President Rahmon to Thailand. His first visit was in 2005. Accompanied by a high-level delegation, President Rahmon will arrive in Bangkok on 17 May, when the official welcoming ceremony is scheduled at Government House.

He will hold bilateral discussions with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on the same day. After the discussions, the Prime Minister Yingluck and the President of Tajikistan will witness the signing of the Convention between Thailand and Tajikistan for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with Respect of Tax Income.

Prime Minister Yingluck will then host a dinner in honor of President Rahmon and his delegation.

The President of Tajikistan is also scheduled to attend the 2nd Asia-Pacific Water Summit at the Chiang Mai International Convention and Exhibition Center on 19 May in Chiang Mai province.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that the upcoming visit of President Rahmon takes place against the backdrop of the celebrations of the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Thailand and Tajikistan.

The official visit will herald a new phase of close relations between the two countries, marked by enhanced cooperation in areas of mutual interest such as socio-economic development, direct air connections, and promotion of trade, investment and tourism.

It is also a reflection of Thailand’s continuing efforts to foster closer ties with Central Asia and to strengthen the Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) – an initiative for Asia-wide cooperation launched by Thailand in 2002. ACD is currently chaired by Tajikistan.

Government’s Medical Hub Plan Focuses on Private Hospitals

(14/05/2013)

The Government, in its medical hub plan, will serve as a facilitator for private hospitals, helping them to improve their medical services to foreign visitors seeking health care in Thailand.

Public Health Minister Pradit Sinthawanarong stressed that the Government would ensure that the plan would not affect the availability of affordable health care for Thai people.

Speaking in the weekly program “Yingluck Government Meets the People,” Minister Pradit said that the medical hub plan involves mainly the operations of private hospitals, while state hospitals still focus on medical services for Thai nationals. So the plan should not adversely affect Thai patients, and the Government would not spend national funds on private hospitals.

Apart from serving as the facilitator, he said, the public sector would help boost the image of the country in terms of medical advances. The medical hub policy would encourage health establishments in Thailand to improve their health services to higher standards. This will enhance the competitiveness of Thailand, as well.

According to Minister Pradit, in 2012 almost one million foreign visitors entered Thailand for health care, bringing in 140 billion baht. The number of medical tourists visiting Thailand is on the rise. In facilitating their trips to Thailand, the Government has granted visa extensions from 30 days to 90 days for nationals of six countries in the Middle East in the initial stage, so that they can stay in Thailand for a longer period for medical services. Visa extensions will later be granted to medical tourists from other countries.

He said that the Government had recently organized the first workshop for hospitals under the Ministry of Public Health and the Ministry of Education to work together in an integrated manner, so that they would optimize the use of existing resources. In the workshop, they discussed the road map to proceed with Thailand’s medical hub plan, which also includes the creation of more qualified physicians. More workshops will be held for further discussions on the issue.

Minister Pradit said that the Government had set a target for medical tourism to grow by 10 percent a year, depending on the ability of private hospitals. The Government would facilitate the operations of private hospitals to achieve this target. To date, many private hospitals have been recognized and approved as meeting the standards set for the Hospital Accreditation of Thailand and international standards, such as ISO.

In developing Thailand into a regional medical hub, the Government will emphasize four areas. In the first area, Thailand will be promoted as a wellness hub with full-cycle services. The second area is that the medical service hub will link with spa services and health tourism. The third area seeks to turn Thailand into an academic hub for health care. The fourth area seeks to develop Thailand into a pharmaceutical and health products center.