Thailand, Russia sign agreements on drug trafficking, energy

Thailand, Russia sign agreements on drug trafficking, energy

Countries aim to double bilateral trade in 2016

ussian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (left) smiles with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha at Government House before a press conference on Wednesday. (Photo by Thanarak Khunton)
ussian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (left) smiles with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha at Government House before a press conference on Wednesday. (Photo by Thanarak Khunton)

Thailand and Russia signed bilateral agreements on Wednesday to combat drug trafficking, boost investment and develop the Thai energy sector.

Making the first visit to Thailand by a Russian prime minister in 25 years, Dmitry Medvedev met his Thai counterpart Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha in Bangkok, lending high profile international support to the government as it faces criticism from its old ally, the United States.

"Thailand is a close friend in the Asia-Pacific region and we have long diplomatic relations. In two years we will mark our 120 years of relations," dpa quoted Mr Medvedev as saying.

He added that he had extended an invitation to Gen Prayut to visit Russia in the coming months.

The visit comes just a week after the government came under fire from some Western countries and the United Nations for lifting martial law only to replace it with sweeping security powers for the military.

"Friends prove their worth when one is in trouble. Friends will help and understand," said Gen Prayut, who has courted Beijing and Moscow after being spurned by Western countries for last year's coup.

On Wednesday, the two signed five memorandums of understanding to boost cooperation on energy, investment, suppressing drug crime, tourism and culture. As part of the agreements, Russia will lend expertise in the military and civil aviation industries.

Reuters reported that a major goal of the two countries is to double annual bilateral trade in 2016 to US$10 billion, Gen Prayut said after the signing ceremony.

"We exchanged opinions on how to boost trade to $10 billion next year," he said in a statement read to reporters after meeting Mr Medvedev. Gen Prayut gave no details on which sectors would see the increase in trade.

Russia has been interested in buying rubber from Thailand, however. Mr Medvedev was expected to follow up on earlier talks in that area.

Another of the agreements focuses on tourism, which was hit hard by last year's political protests and coup, then by a historic drop in the value of the rouble. Thailand drew 1.6 million Russian tourists in 2014, down 8.6% on the year.

The country is keen to lure Russian visitors back to its Buddhist temples, beaches and bars. Mr Medvedev's visit will include stops at Bangkok's glittering Grand Palace and Temple of the Emerald Buddha.

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