Thailand is serious about promoting its role in strengthening ASEAN. It will essentially involve people in the country’s decision-making and make ASEAN accountable to the masses.
In his remarks at the East Asia Media Forum at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangkok on March 18, the Advisor to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Pithaya Pookaman, spoke about the present administration’s policy statement delivered in Parliament on February 18. In the statement, Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej announced that the Thai government would undertake a more proactive diplomacy and people-centered policy, with emphasis on culture and education, including people-to-people exchanges.
Mr. Pithaya urged ASEAN to ensure that its policies remain relevant to the people. Over the past forty years of ASEAN cooperation, many benefits have been made for its people in the areas of political, security, and economic development. People in the region are living in peace, harmony, and prosperity through closer ASEAN integration. But ASEAN must ensure that people understand and embrace regional integration, which would bring tangible benefits to them. On this matter, Mr. Pithaya believed that the media had a special role to play in promoting mutual trust and understanding among all stakeholders to help support the integration process.
He said that wide television broadcasting by such channels as CCTV, NHK, Arirang, and Channel News Asia enabled people in this region to learn more about their neighbors and see how important events unfold around the world through the eyes of the Asian media. After many years of relying on western media and western perspectives, people in this region now have many Asian media channels that can help project the ASEAN point of view to the world. As for Thailand, the country is planning to set up an English TV channel, as well as a channel dedicated to promoting public awareness about ASEAN, called TV ASEAN.
Mr. Pithaya said that Thailand would assume the Chairmanship of ASEAN in July this year at a time when the ASEAN Charter was coming into force. The ratification and implementation of the ASEAN Charter is a significant step that demonstrates the seriousness of ASEAN to build an ASEAN Community of Sharing and Caring by 2015.
Concerning this matter, the Director-General of the Department of ASEAN Affairs, Mr. Vitavas Srivihok said that the ASEAN Charter was signed by ASEAN leaders at the last summit meeting in November 2007. It has been ratified by four countries: Singapore, Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, and Lao PDR. Thailand is in the process of submitting the Charter to Parliament for approval and hopes that this very important document will be ratified by July 2008. Once entering into force, the ASEAN Charter will provide ASEAN with legal status and mandates to place people at the center of its development strategy. The Charter will also give rise to a human rights mechanism in the region.