ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Yingluck at Asean summit pushes for flood support
BALI, INDONESIA :
As Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra attended her first-ever Asean Summit, not a word was mentioned about the Thai-Cambodian border dispute. There was sympathy all around as Asean leaders welcomed their newest member, Ms Yingluck.
With her government still grappling with the devastation caused by severe floods, plus controversy over the planned draft decree for royal pardons, Ms Yingluck pushed for Asean support for greater cooperation in tackling flooding.
Asean secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan said the prime minister urged her colleagues to support the Thai initiative for a joint statement on cooperation on flood prevention, mitigation, relief, recovery and rehabilitation.
Ms Yingluck said Asean defence ministers at their meeting in Pattaya in 2009 had agreed that they would use military equipment to help those suffering from natural disasters.
"Everyone [Asean leaders] agreed with the Thai proposal as it is consistent with the spirit of cooperation among member countries experiencing natural disasters, especially after the tsunami of 2004," Mr Surin said.
The leaders agreed that disaster relief and assistance following natural disasters were crucial issues and they would be raised at the East Asia Summit as well as during Asean-Russia and Asean-US dialogue discussions.
Mr Surin said the main office of the Asean Humanitarian Assistance Office would be set up in Jakarta and also have offices in each of the Asean capitals.
"Thailand is crucial to Asean. It is the second-largest economy behind Indonesia. Thailand is a centre of business and investment. Whatever happens to Thailand affects the supply line, affects many countries and all countries, especially those involved in the electronics, automobile and food industries. It also affects growth in the region," he said.
"But most importantly she stressed that Thailand proposed the joint statement on disaster mitigation. Based on this experience, it was time for Asean to strengthen its cooperation because it [the flooding] has an impact on food security that affects many countries. All agreed and we asked for support for what we had proposed. I am confident all countries will support us," he said.
Ms Yingluck will also hold bilateral talks with the leaders of Japan and China.
"There are more than 400 Japanese companies in Thailand and they would like tax exemptions for imported equipment and easier issuance of work permits and visas for their
Japanese staff. They are concerned about the rehabilitation of infrastructure such as power, water and roads," Thai Foreign Minister, Mr Surapong said.
With China, Yingluck is expected to discuss boosting investments. The Chinese are also expected to raise South China Sea territorial issues.
Ms Yingluck will discuss disaster relief with US President Barack Obama.
Mr Surapong said the floods have shown how important Thailand is to the global production and supply chain.
"We have wasted so many years in unproductive politics. The US and China lend considerable importance to Asean and both countries have seen Thailand's role in the past," he said.
"Both countries want Thailand to return to that role."
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