Academics urge S Korea to boost ties

Academics urge S Korea to boost ties

Academics suggest that South Korea expand its economic and social ties with Thailand to boost connectivity between countries in the Mekong region.

On Thursday, History NGO Forum for Peace in East Asia held its 3rd Mekong Forum via online teleconference, which was joined by academics and journalists in Thailand.

When asked about what Thailand and South Korea should do to contribute to the development of the Mekong region, Narut Charoensri, a lecturer from Chiang Mai University's Political Science and Public Administration Faculty, suggested that both countries emulate Japan's approach to a "free and open Indo-Pacific strategy" amid the establishment of China's-21st century maritime silk road.

"The Republic of Korea should use this strategy to help contribute in the Mekong subregion," Mr Narut said, noting that Thailand and other countries in Southeast Asia implemented a "Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy" with Japan in 2016.

Mr Narut said it was the first time the idea of being "free" and "open" was used between Southeast Asia -- where the Mekong subregion is located -- and Japan. He noted that the idea of being free and open leaves it open to interpretation of what it means.

"So, Korea should use their own interpretation to engage in many areas of cooperation in the future," he said.

Regarding what South Korea should do to support Thailand's development, Mr Narut said the East Asian country should expand its current social, economic and political development initiatives, such South Korea's democratic movement, which has supported Thailand's democratic efforts.

Meanwhile, Termsak Chalermpalanupap, a visiting fellow in the Thailand Studies Programme under the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, said Thailand has been shifting away from its receiver status since 2006 to become a donor. Therefore, cooperation opportunities will open for Thailand and South Korea in the Mekong region, he said.

However, Mr Termsak said Thailand still needs technological support from South Korea.

He noted that Thailand is a major food producer in the Mekong region, but Thai farmers still lack technologies for safe and sustainable agriculture.

"I think this would be a good [effort] that can help Thai farmers produce safer food for the subregion," he said.

As Thailand is located at the centre of the subregion, it is very important for the kingdom to have better connectivity with its neighbours, Mr Termsak said.

"By having better transportation, we can promote tourism and cross-border trade that is vital for this subregion," he said. "This would [also] lead to a better immigration process that could protect Thai workers leaving [the country] to work as well as [those] coming to work in Thailand."

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