Asean meet to gauge virus response
First time summit will be held online
The regional Covid-19 response is expected to be assessed by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and other world leaders during the upcoming 36th Asean Summit next week.
The summit will be hosted by Asean chair Vietnam on June 26 under the theme of "Cohesive and Responsive Asean". The meeting was supposed to be held in April, but it was postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Usana Berananda, acting director-general of the Department of Asean Affairs, during a press conference yesterday said the summit will take place for one day via teleconference.
"This is the first virtual Asean Summit in our history," Ms Usana said. "We held a special Asean Summit on Covid-19 with member countries and our Plus Three dialogue partners [China, Japan and South Korea] in April, but this upcoming one will resemble the in-person summit."
During the summit in April, Asean and its three dialogue partners agreed to set up a joint Covid-19 fund to purchase medical supplies and support bloc members in handling the pandemic.
Ms Usana said the joint fund will be made available after an endorsement during the upcoming summit. She said Asean and its Plus Three partners are scheduled to review the terms of reference on June 24.
"After, the Asean Secretariat will be able to reallocate money from existing cooperation funds, such as the Asean Development Fund, to the [Covid-19] fund," she said.
"Aside from our Plus Three dialogue partners, many other countries are now expressing interest in financing this cooperation," Ms Usana added.
When asked about how much money will be reallocated from existing funds, the acting director-general declined to disclose the figure. However, she noted it will be larger than the previously reported 10%, or $300,000, from each existing fund.
"Some countries, such as South Korea, have given more than 10% to support the purchase of face masks and test kits," she said.
Ms Usana said that at the meeting, leaders will also strengthen regional cooperation on public health emergencies and come up with a post-Covid-19 recovery plan.
"[Leaders] will discuss how Asean can improve the living standards of people in terms of public health and social security," she said. "They will also push forward what we [Thailand] promoted last year."
Ms Usana was referring to proposals made on sustainability and security during Thailand's tenure as Asean chair last year.
"Economic development should go hand-in-hand with environmental protection and public health," she said.