Connectivity Cited as the Heart of the ASEAN Community (17/07/2012)
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has stated that connectivity is at the heart of the ASEAN Community, which will soon become a single market with a production base of 600 million people and a combined GDP of over 2 trillion US dollars.

The statement was part of her speech on “Commitment to Connectivity” at the US-ASEAN Business Forum in Siem Reap, Cambodia, on 13 July 2012.

In her speech, the Prime Minister pointed out that connectivity can help ensure that ASEAN becomes a high-growth market with increasing opportunities. ASEAN is also located at the key trade routes linking South Asia and East Asia. This connection to other regions can contribute to greater growth and create jobs in the wider Asia-Pacific region. In particular, it can be a strong force for peace and a partner of progress for the United States. Together, ASEAN and the United States can benefit from this new era of the Asia-Pacific.

For this reason, she said, partners like China and Japan, the Republic of Korea, and India, have worked with the Mekong region and ASEAN for many years on connectivity. In addition, ASEAN also welcomes the growing US interest, as indicated in President Obama’s connectivity ideas at last year’s East Asia Summit and the Lower Mekong Initiative connectivity projects initiated by the US Secretary of States Hilary Clinton. US support for connectivity is part of the strategic re-balancing of the US in the region. ASEAN can look forward to enhanced economic relations between the US and Southeast Asia. This is also where the US private sector will play an important role.

Prime Minister Yingluck stressed that ASEAN should continue to work together to promote regional peace and stability. This is the key to achieving enhanced connectivity and ASEAN community-building. Therefore, the priority for ASEAN is to promote enhanced regional connectivity, from the hardware of infrastructure to the software to people-to-people links. Through connectivity, ASEAN countries are creating the infrastructure backbone of ASEAN that will support regional and global supply chains. This will not only generate greater opportunities but will also provide a level playing field for all.

The Prime Minister underscored Thailand’s full commitment to enhancing connectivity as well as community-building in ASEAN and beyond. At the regional level, ASEAN is implementing the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity and the Greater Mekong Subregion Strategic Framework 2012-2022. Thailand is providing millions of US dollars for road repairs, building of bridges, and other projects throughout the East-West, North-South and Southern Economic Corridors.

On the software side, Thailand is actively supporting the establishment of the ASEAN Single Window, which it hopes will be completed by 2012. It has an ASEAN Infrastructure Fund, which if supported by the private sector and other sources, would help address infrastructure needs worth around 18 billion US dollars. And Thailand is improving its border management to safeguard the region from those who wish to misuse connectivity. This is in line with other important projects such as the Container Security Initiative.

In cooperation with its neighbor Myanmar, the Prime Minister said that Thailand is developing the Dawei deep-sea port. Dawei will be linked to Bangkok and Laem Chabang deep-sea port, serving as a “Land Bridge” from the Andaman Sea to the Gulf of Thailand. At the national level, Thailand is investing around 73 billion US dollars in infrastructure projects, including a high speed train link to other major cities of Thailand including Chiang Mai. More importantly, this will also be linked with Laos and southern China. Other projects include expansion of Suvarnabhumi International Airport to accommodate 65 million travelers a year.

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