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Mixed year for Thailand in role as Asean chairman

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Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha addresses the opening ceremony of the 35th summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the related summits in Bangkok, Thailand, Nov. 3, 2019. (Xinhua/Zhu Wei)

BANGKOK (Bangkok Post) – Thailand achieved a great deal during its 2019 chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) under the theme of “Advancing Partnership for Sustainability”, yet there is still much to be done as the kingdom officially passes the baton to Vietnam today.

Speaking at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Suriya Chindawongse, director-general of the Department of Asean Affairs, said Thailand’s commitment to sustainable development had won support from member states and dialogue partners.

“For instance, Asean recently reached a consensus on climate change in Madrid and New York for the first time. We launched the Bangkok Declaration on Combating Marine Debris.

“Eighteen EAS [East Asia Summit] leaders, including the US and China, also affirmed their commitment to partnerships on sustainability. All of these show that sustainability is a new strategy for Asean,” he said.

Suriya said the adoption of the Asean Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP) at the 34th Asean Summit in June strengthened regional architecture. “The blueprint took about two years to develop in close partnership with Indonesia, Thailand and others but, in the end, it is the by-product of all ten countries. We now have an outlook that seeks to build bridges among various strategies in the region. It is an inclusive, forward-looking, win-win cooperation,” he said.“We are promoting its synergies with the East Asia Summit, the Asean Plus Three, the Asean Regional Forum and the Asean Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus, to ensure sustainable security and economic growth.”

In addition, the bloc will synergise the Master Plan on Asean Connectivity 2025 with China’s Belt and Road Initiative, Japan’s infrastructure plan and projects with the Republic of Korea, he said.

When asked about the greatest challenge Thailand faced during its Asean tenure, Suriya said carrying policies forward is a major concern for all chairs.

“Accordingly, we launched seven Asean centres to ensure continuity. They are designed to carry forward all the projects when our chairmanship term ends. They are the legacy we have left to Asean,” he said.

The centres include Asean Centre for Sustainable Development Studies and Dialogue, Asean Centre for Active Ageing and Innovation and Asean Training Centre for Social Work and Social Welfare.

Auramon Supthaweethum, director-general of the Department of Trade Negotiations, said Thailand has cleared trade hurdles and cushioned the economic slowdown.

“Among our deliverables was the conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). We managed to hammer out 13 chapters and, therefore, pass down the 20-chapter pact to Vietnam for signing,” she said.

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