NEW YORK: As chair of Asean, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday called on the bloc to accelerate plans for sustainable development while speaking at the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
Gen Prayut urged a greater regional trade partnership and public participation, as well as efforts to protect the environment and boost welfare in ageing societies.
"If we want to pass on a sustainable world to our children and grandchildren, there is no time to waste. Therefore, we must act now, act quickly, and do more together in partnership," he said at the SDG Summit on Wednesday (Bangkok time).
Gen Prayut said Asean must accelerate the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by enhancing connectivity, tackling inequalities through science and technology, and protecting the environment, especially through the responsible use of natural resources and curbing marine pollution.
The premier also said Asean needs to "localise" SDGs, keeping the goals relevant by encouraging local participation, empowering communities by expanding financial access, and adjusting related initiatives to the needs of an ageing society.
He also called for greater cooperation in promoting free trade through regional initiatives such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the Smart Cities Network.
Separately, Foreign Affairs Minister Don Pramudwinai said the bloc will launch the Asean Centre for Sustainable Development Studies and Dialogue at the 35th Asean Summit, in November in Bangkok.
The centre will be the first regional platform tasked with promoting sustainable development in Asean.
Also opening soon are the Asean Centre for Active Ageing and Innovation as well as the Asean Training Centre for Social Work and Social Welfare, he added.
Meanwhile, the Thai News Agency (TNA) on Wednesday reported that a group of protesters who rallied in front of Gen Prayut's New York hotel turned out to be Mexicans and Peruvians.
The protesters admitted they knew nothing about Thailand, but were demonstrating in support of democracy, according to TNA.
"We came separately. We want to see better human rights and freedom for all countries," one protester, who said the group were "expats living in the US", told the Bangkok Post.
On Monday, protesters claiming to represent the Committee for Human Rights and Democracy and wearing T-shirts emblazoned with "Thai Democracy Now" demonstrated in front of New York's Plaza Athenee Hotel to catch the attention of delegates.
The group is also said to be responsible for prominently placed placards reading "United Nations General Assembly: Don't let democracy die in Thailand" seen in the city.