Australia, Thailand elevate relations

Australia, Thailand elevate relations

Closer strategic ties agreed over defence

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha signs the Joint Declaration on the Strategic Partnership between Thailand and Australia. (Government House photo)
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha signs the Joint Declaration on the Strategic Partnership between Thailand and Australia. (Government House photo)

Thailand and Australia have raised their bilateral relationship into a "Strategic Partnership" by strengthening defence cooperation and trade.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday that the two countries had agreed to step up cooperation on defence and crime-fighting and were looking to increase trade links, too.

Mr Morrison and his Thai counterpart, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha on Friday signed a Joint Declaration on the Strategic Partnership between the Kingdom of Thailand and Australia via teleconference.

"In view of the evolving strategic shifts in the region, through this Strategic Partnership we will enhance cooperation in key areas, including defence and security, cyber affairs, anti-money laundering and combating transnational crime," Mr Morrison said.

The announcement came ahead of the virtual Asean-East Asia and Asean-Australia summits this weekend.

Relevant agencies in Thailand and Australia will soon consult over developing a Joint Plan of Action which will lay out a plan and concrete activities in line with the Joint Declaration, Mr Morrison said.

"Our trading relationship will grow even more important as both countries recover from the Covid-19 pandemic," he said.

Thailand is among Australia's top 10 trading partners.

In related news, Gen Prayut on Friday delivered a statement via teleconference at the second Mekong-Republic of Korea (ROK) Summit, highlighting continued cooperation between Thailand and South Korea.

The premier mentioned the first Mekong-ROK Summit, held in Busan last year, where the Mekong-Han River Declaration was adopted, said government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri.

Gen Prayut commended South Korea's continued support for the Mekong-ROK Cooperation Fund, Mr Anucha said, noting South Korea had announced it would increase its contribution to US$3 million (91 million baht) this year.

South Korea plans to further increase the amount in the coming years to support the development of priority areas through the implementation of projects that meet the true needs of people who live in the Mekong sub-region, said Mr Anucha.

Gen Prayut also expressed the kingdom's readiness to support President Moon Jae-in's plan to elevate the Mekong-ROK cooperation into a strategic partnership through his country's New South Policy Plus, as announced during the 21st Asean-ROK Summit.

The prime minister believed that forging a partnership was integral in driving forward Thai-South Korean cooperation across several sectors, Mr Anucha said.

The PM highlighted two main issues: strengthening public health cooperation through the sharing of experiences and best practices to control the Covid-19 pandemic and enhancing connectivity to strengthen subregional supply chains.

At the 12th Mekong-Japan Summit, which is currently taking place via teleconference, Gen Prayut on Friday highlighted cooperation reinforcement between Mekong countries and Japan in three areas: public health, supply chain connectivity and promoting sustainable and grassroots development.

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