Prayut reaches out to Moscow

Prayut reaches out to Moscow

Boosting trade tops Medvedev's agenda

Thailand and Russia pledged to boost cooperation, emphasising the importance of close ties and understanding in the face of global challenges during a joint press conference between Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev yesterday.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev witness the signing ceremony of 10 memorandums of understanding yesterday. Mr Medvedev is the first Russian prime minister to visit Thailand in 25 years. (Photo by Thanarak Khunton)

The first Russian premier to visit Thailand since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Mr Medvedev put trade and investment issues at the top of Wednesday's agenda, while 10 memorandums of understanding (MOUs) were signed between government agencies and the private sector.

Gen Prayut told the joint press conference that relations between Thailand and Russia are at a crucial stage. 

Russia remains a good friend to Thailand, despite the recent political upheaval, Gen Prayut said.

"When a friend is in trouble, moral support from allies is needed. Russia still chooses to be friends with Thailand today and we will ensure the bond of friendship remains tight," Gen Prayut said.

He thanked Mr Medvedev for his understanding about Thai political developments and vowed he would strengthen ties between the two countries.

"Mutual interests will be shared between Thailand and Russia and there should be no suspicion between us," Gen Prayut said.

The two premiers said Thailand and Russia intend to boost trade volume to US$10 billion (325.7 billion baht) next year, jumping from US$5 billion in 2014.

"Trade barriers or obstacles that might slow economic growth between us will be removed," Mr Medvedev said.

According to Gen Prayut, Russia agreed to import various products from Thailand, such as rice, fruit, pork, seafood and rubber.

The prime minister also invited Russia to join Thailand's Rubber City Project and invest in Special Economic Zones (SEZ) at borders.

A project entitled "Sister Cities for Commercial Cooperation" was also proposed by Gen Prayut, aiming to push forward economic cooperation with Russia.

The Russian premier invited Thai investors to join the new Far Eastern Economic Zone, to promote Thai food and agricultural products.

Mr Medvedev also invited Thailand to take part in the Eurasian Economic Union Free Trade Zone, which consists of five member countries at present.

Other possible areas for bilateral cooperation discussed by Gen Prayut and Mr Medvedev included energy, tourism, science and technology, cultural exchanges, educational collaboration, aviation, nuclear engineering, extradition, astronomy research and scholarships for Thai students to study in Russia.

In order to celebrate 120 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries in 2017, a Russian Cultural Centre will be established in Bangkok.

Mr Medvedev said that tourism is what keeps Thailand and Russia close to each other.

"Russians travel to Thailand very often because it is their favourite holiday destination."

The number of flights between the two countries will be increased to promote tourism, Mr Medvedev said.

However, Thai Airways recently suspended flights to Moscow as part of the company's financial overhaul plan.

A total of 1.7 million Russian tourists visited Thailand last year and the number is on the rise, he said.

Mr Medvedev asked the Thai government to look after Russian citizens either residing in or travelling in Thailand, especially during special circumstances.

The two leaders witnessed the signing of 10 MOUs at Government House.

Five were signed between state agencies, including energy, tourism, cultural exchange, anti-narcotics and investment.

Thai and Russian private companies signed five MOUs to strengthen cooperation in machinery engineering, navigation technology, rail infrastructure, fibreglass production and educational exchange between Moscow State Regional University and Siam Technology College.

Mr Medvedev's two-day visit came after Gen Prayut's invitation during the East Asia Summit in Myanmar last year.

Gen Prayut extended his invitation to visit Thailand to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

A ban on chrysotile asbestos was not mentioned by either side, even though Thai civic groups had earlier expressed concern Russia might raise the issue. Russia is a major exporter of the substance, which civic groups have urged the government to ban due to health concerns.

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