file photo : PM Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha attends the 4th Asean-US Summit in Laos last year
file photo : PM Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha attends the 4th Asean-US Summit in Laos last year

Prayut to focus on economic issues, skirt security rows, at Apec, Asean talks

politics November 10, 2017 01:00


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PRIME MINISTER General Prayut Chan-o-cha will attend two leader summits beginning with the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) meeting in Danang today, and later moving to Manila for the Asean summit to focus on sustainable human resources development, while both events are expected to focus on hot-button global security issues.

Thailand will probably remain neutral and back multilateral resolutions regarding regional security issues, particularly the Korean peninsula and contentious South China Sea issues, Foreign Ministry officials said. During a two-day trip to Danang in central Vietnam, Prayut will also have bilateral discussions with his Papua New Guinea counterpart Peter O’Neill and Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam on the sidelines of the Apec meeting.

Prayut and Lam, who visited Thailand in August, will probably continue to focus on trade and the economy. Hong Kong, Asean’s second and Thailand’s ninth biggest trade partner by value, also plans to establish an economic and trade office in the Kingdom.

Arthayudh Srisamoot, director-general of the international economics department at the Foreign Ministry, said Hong Kong business entities were also keen on investments in the Eastern Economic Corridor, which has been promoted by the Thai government as improving regional connectivity and infrastructure.

At a multilateral level, Thailand will focus on the green economy and tech-savvy development, including support for small and medium-enterprises, modernising the agricultural sector and big data management, Arthayudh said.

Thailand along with Peru drafted the Apec Strategy for Green, Sustainable and Innovative Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, which will be part of the Apec Economic Leaders’ Declaration at the end of the summit, he added.

The Apec event will be the first attended by US President Donald Trump, whose “America First” policy has overturned US international trade policy.Prayut visists the US last month for bilateral meeting with Trump

Arthayudh said he believed that Apec would be an opportunity for Thailand and the other 20 Apec members to strengthen ties in light of changing circumstances, including focusing on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

On Sunday, Prayut will head to Clark Air Base in the Philippines for a gala dinner before going to Manila. 

The summit, which will be observed by partners including the US, will be watched for Trump’s expressions regarding the deteriorating situation of the Rohinhya minority in Myanmar. The US regional security agenda encouraging countries to distance themselves from North Korea and pushing for a Code of Conduct regarding the South China Sea are also of interest.Filipino government security forces stand in formation during deployment for the Asean Summit and Related Meetings in Manila, Philippines, 05 November 2017. (EPA-EFE photo)

A diplomatic source suggested that Myanmar might take the upper hand regarding the controversial Rohingya issue by bring it up pre-emptively. “The move, certainly, has to be creative,” the source said.

Thailand would continue to work through Asean mechanisms such as the Asean Coordinating Center for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management to provide aid to the affected minority, said Suriya Chindawongse, director-general of the Asean department under the Foreign Ministry.

“We would like to provide help but it has to be based not only on an Asean consensus but also on Myanmar sentiment,” Suriya said. “This conflict may not be a direct Asean problem but certainly affects countries within and outside Asean.”

Regarding the South China Sea, he said, Thailand might not be a contestant to ongoing disputes but benefits from maritime and air routes. 

Rather than looking at it as a territorial dispute, Thailand will focus on other aspects when considering the Code of Conduct framework, he said.

Thailand will also address the ageing society and Asean Cyber Security and Cyber Crime Center to support its chairmanship of Asean in two years, he added.