Japan reaffirms commitment to rail while pushing for early elections

Japan reaffirms commitment to rail while pushing for early elections

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha (left) and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shake hands prior to their meeting at Mr Abe's   official residence in Tokyo on Monday. (AFP photo)
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha (left) and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shake hands prior to their meeting at Mr Abe's official residence in Tokyo on Monday. (AFP photo)

Japan on Monday reaffirmed Tokyo’s commitment to railway and infrastructure development in Thailand even while pressing Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha for an early return to democracy.

Gen Prayut, who began a three-day visit to Japan Sunday, signed a memorandum of intent with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for Tokyo to cooperate in building train routes in Thailand, including one between Bangkok and Chiang Mai, according to Kyodo News.

The two leaders also agreed to enhance the two countries' "strategic partnership" and confirmed Thailand's commitment to an early restoration of democracy, with Gen Prayut saying a general election for a new government is possible by the end of this year or early next year.

"Prime Minister Prayut is putting all his power into restoring democracy," Bloomberg News quoted Mr Abe as saying. "Japan has strong expectations for reconciliation among the Thai people and a return to democracy as soon as possible."

But talk of democracy was largely overshadowed by economic interests in a day full of bilateral commitments.

Japan's commitment to developing railway infrastructure, the two sides said in their pact, "has immense significance for further development of the Thai economy and the enhancement of connectivity within the region."

Gen Prayut is scheduled to take a "shinkansen" high-speed train ride from Tokyo to Osaka on Tuesday before heading home from Osaka. It was not immediately known whether the two leaders discussed a possible introduction of the shinkansen bullet-train technology to Thailand.

In other topics, Mr Abe also requested that Thailand promptly lift its restrictions on Japanese food imports imposed after the 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima over concerns about radioactive contamination.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha (left) speaks to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the start of their meeting at Mr Abe's official residence in Tokyo on Monday. (AFP photo)

He also reaffirmed Japan's cooperation in development of the Dawei Special Economic Zone in southern Myanmar, a joint project between Thailand and Myanmar, according to an official.

Finally, in a joint press statement issued after the meeting, the two governments said they recognised that "the international community must stand united in not giving in to terrorism and work to maintain international peace and security."

Before meeting the Japanese premier, Gen Prayut held separate talks with executives of the Japan Business Federation, better known as Keidanren, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, the Japan External Trade Organisation, the Japan-Thailand Business Forum, Mitsubishi Motors, Honda Motor and Marubeni.

Chairman of Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp Teisuke Kitayama sought support from Gen Prayut on Japanese investment in the energy sector, while the prime minister hoped Japan's position on using Thailand was an investment hub in Southeast Asia remained firm.

Jetro chairman Hiroyuki Ishige affirmed that Japan would continue investment in the kingdom and called for the Thai government to ease regulations that obstructed investment in the auto industry in Thailand.

In talks with Kaidenren chairman Sadayuki Sakakibara, Gen Prayut asked the federation to promote more technological support and investment by Japanese companies to bolster the Southeast Asian country's economic growth.

Gen Prayut called for confidence from Japanese investors on Thailand, which will move forward after undertaking the comprehensive reform.


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