Thailand Stresses the Importance of Maintaining ASEAN’s Centrality (03/04/2012)
Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul has stressed the importance of maintaining ASEAN’s centrality, especially amidst increasing engagements with countries outside Southeast Asia.

The Foreign Minister attended the ASEAN Ministerial Meetings in Phnom Penh on 12 April 2012 prior to the 20th ASEAN Summit on April 3-4.

He said that ASEAN’s centrality could be achieved by creating a cohesive community, establishing ASEAN+FTAs, and enhancing connectivity in the region. He expressed his support of the proposal for ASEAN to issue a statement to show its support for Myanmar’s commitment to democratization and national reconciliation, as demonstrated through a series of concrete developments, including the by-elections on 1 April 2012.

A report from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that Foreign Minister Surapong welcomed the invitation extended by Myanmar to the ASEAN foreign ministers to visit Myanmar, which would afford them an opportunity to observe first hand the changes taking place in the country. He concurred with the sentiments expressed by other ASEAN Foreign Ministers that sanctions on Myanmar should be lifted.

In his intervention, Foreign Minister Surapong expressed his condolences, on behalf of the Royal Thai Government, to the Government of Malaysia for the loss of lives and injuries of Malaysian citizens as a result of bombing incidents in the South of Thailand on 31 March 2012. The other ASEAN Foreign Ministers shared the same sentiment and condemned these indiscriminate acts against innocent people.

Foreign Minister Surapong concluded his intervention by proposing to elevate the issue of building a drug-free ASEAN Community by 2015 as a high-priority agenda for ASEAN.

During the meeting between the ASEAN Ministers and the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights, the Foreign Minister emphasized the importance of creating a sense of ownership among the peoples of ASEAN in the drafting of the ASEAN Declaration on Human Rights, and encouraged the Commission to engage openly, regularly, and transparently with the public in order to create greater awareness.

He then joined his colleagues at the meeting of the ASEAN Political-Security Community Council, where he emphasized that the Council should promote better coordination between sectoral bodies under the political and security cooperation pillar and at the same time work in concert with the Economic and Socio-Cultural Councils. The Foreign Minister also underlined the importance of enhanced coordination among different ASEAN mechanisms on such issues as disaster management and addressing the negative impacts from increased regional connectivity, such as drug trade, transnational crimes, human trafficking, and money laundering, as well as other cross-border problems.

He announced that Thailand would host an ASEAN Workshop on Cross-Border Management during 13-14 June 2012 to build members’ capacity and complement each other’s efforts in harmonizing cross border regulations. Foreign Minister Surapong also expressed appreciation to his colleagues for their support for Thailand’s initiative to establish the ASEAN Network of Nuclear Regulatory Agencies to advance ASEAN’s shared goal of nuclear safety, security, and safeguards.

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