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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs    24 July 2012

Myanmar Thailand ties come closer on president's visit


Thailand highlighted its endorsement of Myanmar President Thein Sein's reform platform during his three-day official visit starting yesterday, particularly regarding the opening up of the economy, as Bangkok is keen on developing the Dawei port project to link up logistics in the region.

Shortly after his arrival, Thein Sein was shown the Laem Chabang Port and Laem Chabang Industrial Estate in eastern Chon Buri by Thai authorities hoping to inspire him into extending full political support to the Thai-invested Dawei project in Myanmar's southern town of Dawei.

Thein Sein will meet with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra today to exchange views on ways to enhance mutual relations and development cooperation.

Yingluck said she would discuss with her counterpart many issues of interest, including the development of the deep-sea port and industrial estate in Dawei and the planned trans-border corridor to Thailand.

Italian-Thai Development Plc is committed to investing at least 300 billion baht (US$9.4 billion) for the first phase of the project, which would act as a shortcut for Thailand to the Indian Ocean and a gateway for Myanmar to mainland Southeast Asia including Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Thailand intends to stress economic cooperation with Myanmar as a new prospect for their relations although the two countries also have many other unsolved issues such as Myanmar's detention of 92 Thais.

Yingluck said her government has already urged the Myanmar president to consider this case before his visit and hopes that Myanmar authorities would help secure the release of the Thai citizens who were being held in custody on many charges including illegal entry and encroachment. They were arrested on July 4 for farming on forestland opposite Ranong's Kraburi district.

Thein Sein postponed his planned official visit to Thailand in May when opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was also invited to attend the World Economic Forum in Bangkok.

Thein Sein paid an official visit to Thailand from April 29-May 1 in 2008 as prime minister of the previous regime. He took the position of president of the new regime in March last year and has dedicated himself to reform and reconciliation since then.

A Thai official said Thein Sein made the right decision to postpone his visit as his presence in Thailand might have been overshadowed by the charismatic Suu Kyi, who grabbed the media spotlight all during her visit.

Nay Pyi Taw said the deferral of his visit was caused by domestic affairs since the president was busy with power shortage protests in Yangon and Mandalay as well as riots in the western state of Rakhine.

The timing now was such that the Thai government could give its complete attention to his visit and have more time to discuss with him on various significant issues, the official said on condition of anonymity.

"President Thein Sein is the key person whom the international community should support to move reform and national reconciliation n Myanmar ahead," the official said.

"Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is important, of course, as the symbol of democracy in the country, but President Thein Sein is the person responsible for reform," he said.
The official visit to Thailand will be his first since his assumption of office on Mar. 30, 2011.

"It will therefore afford a good opportunity for both countries to further strengthen the ties of friendship and further enhance cooperation in various areas, particularly those in support of Myanmar's ongoing economic reform and development efforts for the benefit of both countries and the region as a whole," the Thai Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
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It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

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