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Neighbours vow to promote peace


April 1, 2008

Neighbours vow to promote peace

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and his Thai counterpart Samak Sundaravej agreed to strengthen bilateral cooperation and jointly promote regional peace and prosperity as they met in Laos Sunday on the sideline of the Third Summit of the countries in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS).

Speaking about the growing bilateral relations, Chinese premier said he hoped the neighbours would be able to expand their two-way trade to reach $50 billion in total value by 2010, $6.5 billion in mutual investment, and 4 million tourists travelling to and from each destination.

Thai premier in turn reiterated that Thailand would adhere to the one-China policy. Calling the Tibet issue China's internal affairs, he said he expected China would handle well the issue and successfully host the forthcoming Olympic Games in Beijing this summer.

Meanwhile, prime ministers of China, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos attending the third Greater Mekong Subregion meeting on Monday pledged to boost road, rail and power links between their six countries, saying closer integration will boost trade and development.

They also pledged, in an advance of a summit declaration, to jointly tackle challenges such as "the emergence of health risks, human and drug trafficking, and growing environmental threats, including those posed by climate change."

The Mekong region was for decades a battlegound for post-colonial struggles and the Vietnam War that in the 1960s and 1970s spilled into Laos as well as Cambodia, which then fell under the bloody reign of the Khmer Rouge.

Over recent years, average economic growth in the region - home to more than 320 million people, according to the latest ADB data - has topped six per cent per year.

Exports from its members, excluding China, have grown from $37 billion in 1992 to $179 billion in 2006. Foreign direct investment has more than tripled to $7 billion in 2005.

ADB vice president Lawrence Greenwood said the group was shifting its focus toward streamlining rules, building up institutions and training officials.

"The main emphasis of this meeting has been to take the next step from the building of infrastructure to support the integration of the Greater Mekong Subregion and move to more emphasis on the 'software'," he said.

He said the 2008-2012 action plan of the summit included more than 200 projects, worth over 20 billion US dollars in investments, in areas such as transport, tourism, power and the environment.

Several highways are nearly complete across the area united by Southeast Asia's largest river - including roads linking China and Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam, and Thailand and Vietnam - the premiers said in their statement.

The group committed to extending transport links, including a rail line from Kunming in China's southern Yunnan province that would run south through Thailand and Malaysia to the commercial hub and port of Singapore.

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