Surin: Government needs to prioritise

The government needs to wisely choose which urgent problems to deal with - political, constitutional, education or labour, former secretary general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Surin Pitsuwan said Thursday.

  • Published: 17/01/2013 at 06:27 PM
  • Newspaper section: breakingnews

Mr Surin, who last week handed over the secretary-general's job to Le Luong Minh in the Asean capital of Jakarta, was launching two books published by Amarin printing house.

Surin Pitsuwan (EPA photo)

Thailand, said Mr Surin, needed no more adhoc labour policy as problems on migrants and trafficking were still prevalent and the formation of the Asean Community was looming large.

Thailand was being watched by the world as to how it was going to treat migrants, either off-shore or on land, Mr Surin said, referring notably to the recent influx of Rohingya from Myanmar.

Mr Surin emphasised his long-standing opinion that Asean should help address the Rohingya problem. "After all, all sides should help Myanmar in dealing with the problem as there are also constitutional/citizenship challenges within their country. But meanwhile Thailand needs the United Nations help while taking care of the boat people too."

On building up human resources, he said the Ministry of Education is a central and challenging portfolio that he would like to take on if given a chance.

"We need to change the mindset and attitude of the people from being complacent and too relaxed - or what we call sabai, sabai. We have to produce competitive citizens to confront the challenges and integration of the world," said Mr Surin, adding that Asean was a half-way showcase as to how Thailand can survive in the global market.

"The whole system is wobbling. Having faith or being content with one's destiny is fine, but we should not succumb to the surrounding conditions. One needs to struggle and be ready to adjust and work on our changing circumstances," he said.

He noted that the government was facing several "cliffs" involving politics, the constitution, education and labour, among others, and "we need to choose well how to confront them".

Mr Surin, who will report to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Friday after finishing his Asean job, said if the agenda and priorities are well chosen, Thailand will improve its political capital. 

"Of course, the government has pledged a number of policies, but they should do the early harvest, deliver certain promises that will maintain good momentum and build up solidarity and recognition. The charter amendment, however, seems not to be an urgent issue as the sentiment and the situation are not conducive right now," Mr Surin said.

On the Preah Vihear conflict, he said it was risky to reject the international justice system. 

Mr Surin said Thai people should not be incited to wage war or quarrel with neighbours. "We need to find ways to peacefully co-exist with them as it is more constructive and beneficial to us than fighting."

The mutual benefit that the Asean community would bring about to members should help reduce the rigid attachment to nationalism.

"Asean is moving towards a sense of collectiveness, but certain countries are still unable to embrace the reality and still mobilise opposition through patriotic messages to their citizens," he said.

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Writer: Achara Ashayagachat
Position: Senior Reporter

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