PM presses Asean to reopen

PM presses Asean to reopen

Discusses economic revival, Myanmar

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha addresses the 38th and 39th Asean Summits via videoconference on Tuesday. He urged the bloc to start reopening borders, allow for safe travel to revive economies in the region and ensure tangible implementation of the group's Covid-19 response. Government House photo
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha addresses the 38th and 39th Asean Summits via videoconference on Tuesday. He urged the bloc to start reopening borders, allow for safe travel to revive economies in the region and ensure tangible implementation of the group's Covid-19 response. Government House photo

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has urged other Asean members to follow Thailand's footsteps and start reopening to revive economies in the region and ensure the tangible implementation of the bloc's response to Covid-19.

Gen Prayut addressed the issue via teleconference at the ongoing 38th and 39th Asean Summits, which are taking place online and opened under the chairmanship of Brunei on Tuesday.

Myanmar refused to send a representative after being angered by the bloc's decision to exclude the country's junta chief Gen Min Aung Hlaing.

Gen Prayut told Asean leaders that the Covid-19 crisis underlines the region's vulnerability to coping with emerging threats.

He said the bloc must work to address the impact of the pandemic while also learning lessons from it so as to be more resilient in future.

"Asean should start reopening and allowing for safe travel to revive its economies," he said, adding that the Asean Travel Corridor Arrangement Framework should be put into practice, with mutual recognition of vaccines and vaccine certificates to facilitate business travel, and later tourism.

"In this context, Thailand has already opened up pilot areas under the Phuket Sandbox programme to welcome foreign tourists and will gradually open up more areas," he said.

"Furthermore, Asean must avoid unnecessary measures that may hinder the movement of goods to ensure supply chain connectivity during the pandemic and make greater use of the intra-Asean market to stimulate our regional economy," he added.

Gen Prayut said he hoped the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) could come into force at the intended timeline and that Asean-Canada free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations could be announced soon.

This would help promote an environment conducive to trade and investment and expand commercial opportunities to help entrepreneurs recover from the pandemic, he noted.

"Thailand plans to submit the instrument of ratification for the RCEP to the Asean secretary-general in early November to contribute to its early entry into force," Gen Prayut said.

The RCEP is a proposed agreement between Asean members and their FTA partners. The pact aims to cover trade in goods and services, intellectual property, and more.

The Thai prime minister complimented the progress made in using the Covid-19 Asean Response Fund to procure vaccines, and hoped member states would receive these soon.

Myanmar topped the agenda at Tuesday's talks between regional leaders, with the country still in chaos following February's military takeover and its deadly crackdown on dissent. Facing calls to defuse the crisis, Asean has drawn up a roadmap aimed at restoring peace but there have been doubts over the junta's commitment to the plan.

The bloc had prepared for Myanmar to have a representative at its virtual summit on Tuesday, but the country's junta opted to skip the event.

"Myanmar has been invited on a non-political level, but until the summit, Myanmar did not deliver its representative," Indonesia's Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said in Jakarta.

Gen Prayut said Myanmar would be a litmus test for Asean's ability to resolve problems within the region.

"Asean's constructive role in addressing this situation is of paramount importance and our action on this matter shall have a bearing on Asean's credibility in the eyes of the international community,'' he said from Bangkok.

He said Thailand would like to see peace and stability in Myanmar and that it supports the implementation of the five-point consensus for the benefit of its people and the region as a whole.

Hopes are still running high that a special envoy of Asean chair Brunei can visit Myanmar soon.

This would be an important step in the process of confidence-building with the goal of encouraging dialogue among the parties concerned, Gen Prayut said.

The cessation of violence and peaceful resolution of conflict through dialogue with all parties concerned should be a priority, he noted, while calling on Asean to provide humanitarian assistance to all sides.

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