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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs   23 April  2012

US$7.4 billion Japanese aid to Mekong region

22 April, 2012

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has applauded the Japanese government for pledging US$7.4 billion (227 billion baht) in aid to help develop infrastructure and transport in five Mekong region countries including Thailand.
Infrastructure and the transport network are the foundation for the development of the Mekong region, Ms Yingluck said in her keynote speech at the fourth Japan-Mekong Summit in Tokyo Saturday.

"It will help bring development to remote areas, uplifting living conditions of people in the sub-region and narrowing the economic and development gaps among Asean countries," she said.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who met the leaders of Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam Saturday, pledged to provide 600 billion yen (227.32 billion baht) in development aid to the five nations until 2015.

Tokyo also presented a list of 57 infrastructure projects planned in the region at an estimated cost of 2.3 trillion yen.

The projects include a roadway connecting Myanmar to Thailand.

Japan also announced that it would write off about 300 billion yen of Myanmar's debt and resume development aid as a way to support the country's democratic and economic reforms.

The Japanese government said in a statement that it would cancel 127.4 billion yen in loans due after April 2003.

It will also waive 176.1 billion yen in overdue charges accumulated over the past two decades as the two countries jointly monitor reforms.

"The stability and prosperity of East Asia will not be possible without the stability and prosperity of the Mekong region," Mr Noda said.

Mr Noda also expressed appreciation for Thailand's contributions to the development of the Mekong region through bilateral and regional frameworks.

Speaking at a press conference after the summit, Ms Yingluck said Bangkok had always given priority to the development of infrastructure and transport networks in neighbouring countries.

Thailand has set aside a budget of $77 million this year to support infrastructure and technical projects in other Mekong countries, the prime minister said.

Ms Yingluck said Thailand had proposed to work with Japan on three projects under the Japan-Mekong cooperation framework.

The projects are the development of the East-West economic corridor; the development of a deep sea port and the Dawei industrial zone in Myanmar; and building capacity for small and medium- sized enterprises in Mekong countries to prepare for the emergence of the Asean Economic Community and to take advantage from Asean and Asean-Japan free trade agreements.

"The cooperation could cover the effort to increase the economic corridor's ability to handle risks from flooding and other natural disasters," Ms Yingluck said.

The PM said the government had approved a budget of $16 billion for disaster insurance promotion. The fund could protect about 1.54 million business operators from damage.

The government has adjusted Thailand's production and service structures to prevent serious damage to Japanese businesses in Thailand from flooding.

The adjustment is based on the principles of risk and crisis management and business continuity management, Ms Yingluck said.

Leaders at the summit also discussed regional security and stability.

Ms Yingluck told the meeting that Thailand was concerned by North Korea's missile development as it could become a threat to the region's security.

She called on Japan and China to engage constructively with Pyongyang and encourage North Korea to return to the negotiation table.

Ms Yingluck urged conflicting parties in the South China Sea territorial dispute to solve the problem through peaceful means.

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