The Government has focused on boosting relations and cooperation with neighboring countries, and it has cited preparations for the realization of the ASEAN Community as an achievement of its first year in office.
Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said that the Government had moved to develop Thailand into the center of connectivity in the ASEAN region, which would link with other countries outside ASEAN, as well.
Minister Surapong said that, from 23 August 2011 to 26 August 2012, he visited 23 countries, and Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra visited 18 countries. During the period, Thailand had opportunities to welcome royals and foreign leaders 17 times.
Concerning the promotion of relations with neighboring countries, he said, the Government was successful in encouraging Myanmar to reopen the Mae Sot-Myawaddi border checkpoint, which had been closed for more than one year. It also signed two Memorandums of Understanding with Myanmar, one on the Comprehensive Development in the Dawei Special Economic Zone and its Related Project Areas and the other on Development Cooperation in Myanmar. During the past year, he said, border clashes with Cambodia have also dropped.
As for ASEAN, Thailand was able to push for further cooperation with its ASEAN partners in flood prevention and anti-drug operations. It signed an agreement on the ASEAN Plus Three Emergency Rice Reserve, aiming to provide rice stocks to mitigate the effects of natural disasters on food supply and production. It also organized international conferences with the participation of Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam on various issues, such as water resources management, transnational crime, human trafficking, and illegal migrant workers.
Thailand signed several MOUs with China and agreed to increase the bilateral trade target by 20 percent annually and the number of tourists by 20 percent in five years’ time. As for Japan, it agreed to offer more grant aids to Thailand and set the bilateral trade target at three trillion baht by 2017.
Foreign Minister Surapong stated that Thailand’s trade and investment with various countries had also increased during the past year. For instance, trade with China rose by 16.98 percent and Japan by 12.36 percent. Foreign investment from China increased by four times, Japan by 2.5 times and the United States also 2.5 times. Tourist arrivals are also on the rise.
In terms of economic cooperation, he said, Thailand is accelerating negotiations with various countries on free trade agreements. It has strengthened the overall Thai economy, especially through the launching of a project promoting the “Thai Kitchen to the World,” to make Thai food better known to the world at large.