UPDATE: Medvedev arriving for talks

UPDATE: Medvedev arriving for talks

Economic cooperation and defence issues will top the agenda in talks between Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, who is paying an official visit.

It is the first visit by a Russian prime minister in 25 years following former premier Nikolai Ryzhkov's visit in 1990.

The Russian premier will hold talks Wednesday with Gen Prayut on bilateral ties, including economic cooperation, infrastructure, tourism and energy.

The aim of the talks is to widen cooperation, government spokesman Yongyuth Mayalarp said yesterday, adding Mr Medvedev's visit was in response to Gen Prayut's invitation during their meeting on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit in Myanmar last year.

Mr Yongyuth said five agreements between state agencies and another five between private companies will be signed during the visit.

Asked about Russia's position on the current political situation, the spokesman said Russia has maintained good relations with Thailand despite the political changes.

The two premiers will witness the signing of agreements in various fields such as energy, culture and tourism.

Mr Medvedev is also due to meet Thai and Russian businessmen tomorrow before his departure.

Thai and Russian companies will sign memorandums of understanding on cooperation in machinery engineering and advanced navigation technology.

The Russian delegation will include several key ministers, including the minister of industry and trade, Denis Manturov.

The talks will focus on ways to increase trade between the two countries to US$10 billion (324 billion baht) by 2020, up from US$4 billion last year. They will include ways to cut trade barriers and enhance trade cooperation.

Thailand and Russia are also talking about cooperation in civil aircraft manufacturing, the automotive industry, machinery, nuclear engineering, mining, producing fertilisers and oil and gas industry equipment, according to the Russian Industry and Trade Ministry.

The Russian news agency, Tass, yesterday quoted Gen Prayut as saying Thailand is interested in buying Russian weapons and increasing military ties as military and technical cooperation is a key area of bilateral relations. 

"The Russian defence industry is highly developed. Russia has always been one of the best producers of weapons and military equipment. We are interested in purchasing Russian weapons," Gen Prayut said.

He also emphasised aviation cooperation, especially with planes, which Thailand does not produce.

"We need aircraft, including military ones, as well as planes and helicopters for extinguishing fires," Gen Prayut told Tass.

However, the Russian visit has raised concern among civil groups which recently said Russia may ask for a clear position from Thailand over a ban on chrysotile asbestos as Russia is a major exporter.

The groups have urged the government to immediately ban chrysotile asbestos out of heath concerns, and to make that stance clear to its Russian counterpart.

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