Thailand has invited Norway to join “friendly help” trilateral development projects in Myanmar’s conflict-torn Rakhine state, Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai said on Wednesday.
The proposed projects cover infrastructure, public health, community-based development and vocational education, Don told reporters after meeting with his Norwegian counterpart Ine Marie Eriksen Soreide on the sidelines of the 51st Asean Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Singapore.
Thailand, China and Japan have all expressed economic interest in Myanmar’s western coastal state. Last month, Myanmar and a Thailand-based business institute discussed recruiting investors for large-scale projects while China is eyeing the possibility of developing a deep-sea port as part of a special economic zone.
Japan, meanwhile, will continue providing economic development to the state through a poverty eradication project under the Japan International Cooperation Agency.
The economic schemes will help lubricate the economy, benefiting not just local residents but also the Myanmar government, which is being held responsible for the purges against hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas in the same state.
Japanese ambassador to Myanmar, Ichiro Maruyama said earlier that criticism of international community for the problems facing Rakhine State “totally goes against the actual situation in Rakhine”.
“The issue in Rakhine State might well have lasted a long time and that’s because it’s an historical one. Japan appreciates the efforts made by the Union government, the Rakhine State government and the residents. The Japanese government will keep on trying to give assistance to Myanmar,” Maruyama told Eleven Media Group.
Norway, meanwhile, has been vocal in calling for the respect of the Rohingyas’ fundamental rights. Last month, Norway underlined the need for protection for this minority group, a lasting solution to their citizenship issues as well as their right to return to their homes in Myanmar.
During Wednesday’s meeting, Don said, Soreide also invited Thailand to hold discussions with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), an FTA comprising of non-European Union countries Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.
Don said that Thailand might consider engaging with EFTA but without rushing, similar to the way it is holding discussions talks with the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the ongoing proposed FTA between Asean members and six Asia-Pacific countries.
The minister also promoted Thailand’s much-hyped Eastern Economic Corridor mega-project plans to the Scandinavian country, citing Thailand’s strategic location in Asean in terms of logistic connectivity.
Last year, Norway imported Thai goods, mainly iron steel and machinery, worth US$ 752 million (Bt24.9 billion) and exported US$ 333-million (Bt 11 billion) worth of goods to Thailand, mainly fertilisers, seafood and machinery.