Opening Statement by
Her Excellency Ms. Yingluck Shinawatra
Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand
at the World Economic Forum on East Asia
Bangkok, 31 May 2012
Mr. President, Prime Ministers, Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is an honour and a pleasure for me to welcome all of you to the 21st World Economic Forum on East Asia here in Bangkok. The Government and the Thai people are proud that our country was chosen to host this year’s event organized by the WEF. I hope that the change in scenery and weather -- from Davos to Bangkok -- would help promote friendly and fruitful discussions. I hope that the weather is not too hot for all of you.
We are living in a time of both challenges and opportunities. From problems in the Eurozone to climate change to advances in technology, progress in democratic processes and emerging centres of growth. To address these challenges and to take advantage of the opportunities, we must continue to promote regional cooperation and integration.
And the key to this is connectivity.
That is why the theme of this year’s Forum is so relevant. The future of East Asia will depend more and more on our connectivity. So let me share with you Thailandís thoughts on connectivity. In our view, there are three aspects to address.
First is completing the physical connectivity network in our region.
Currently, we are well connected through the North-South, East-West and Southern Economic Corridors, all of which pass through Thailand. However, we need to support new initiatives like the Dawei deep seaport, which Thailand is currently working closely with Myanmar to develop. Once Dawei is linked to Bangkok and Laem Chabang deep seaport, the region will have a “Land Bridge” linking the Andaman Sea to the Gulf of Thailand.
After 17 years of focusing on road building, another key project is the building of train links in the Mekong region. Some of the key projects include the SKRL (Singapore Kunming Railway Link) and the new high speed train links connecting northeastern Thailand to Laos and southern China.
Second is reinforcing non-physical aspects of connectivity.
In addition to investment in infrastructure, it is also important to ensure that goods and people can move freely across borders. Therefore, laws and regulations need to be put in place. That is why we need to finalize the cross-border transport agreement among GMS countries. This will reduce time and costs at borders transforming the transport corridor into an efficient economic corridor.
At the same time, we need to protect our region from cross-border problems. In particular, we must ensure that connectivity will not be misused to pursue illegal cross-border activities. These include transnational crimes and drugs trafficking.
Third is developing connectivity beyond ASEAN and East Asia.
Looking ahead, we will need to enhance connectivity further between ASEAN and other countries in East Asia. There is growing trade and investment links between East Asia and the rest of the world, including South Asia, the Middle East and the Americas.
It is only a matter of time before we need to develop connectivity beyond East Asia. In fact, some cooperation frameworks involving partners beyond East Asia are already exploring connectivity so we need to ensure synergies among such frameworks.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
To be able to support regional connectivity and reinforce community-building in ASEAN and East Asia, we need to make our foundations at home even stronger. After a few years of political instability and last year’s floods, I am pleased to say that the Thai people have once again shown that we can recover very quickly from any crisis. My Government and the Thai people are ready to move to a new phase of development with investment in major infrastructure projects over the next five years.
Specifically, we have plans to develop a high speed railway link to other major cities of Thailand including Chiang Mai. Other projects include expansion of Suvarnabhumi International Airport to accommodate 65 million travelers a year. We are also building mass transit lines in the Bangkok Metropolitan Area. These projects will not only benefit the Thai economy and the Thai people but, more importantly, it will contribute to regional connectivity.
Apart from infrastructure projects, there is also 11.4 billion US dollars investment in water management projects to ensure that Thailand remains a major production base. Priority areas include food and agricultural products where we are the top five net food exporters of the world. On this, I have launched the Thai “Kitchen to the World” programme to promote Thai food worldwide. This will not only enhance our exports but it will also help address the issue of food security. And while you are in Bangkok, I hope that you will enjoy Thai food.
Thailand is also investing and promoting FDI in key areas such as automotives, hard disk drives and electronics products. There is also growing investment in service industries such as medical services, creative industry, telecommunications, clean energy and financial services and insurance.
With regard to human resources, we are determined to further develop women as valuable assets for economic development through programmes such as the Women Development Fund. Our education programmes, like the one tablet per child project, will help prepare our children for the world of technological advances and contribute to the future of Thailand. In addition, our universal health care programme hopes to provide our human resources with greater protection.
So you can see that Thailand is not a key player to the region’s connectivity simply because of our strategic location. It is also because we are a strong production hub. This is a result of a productive and skilled labour force, strong economic fundamentals with pro-business policies. Through our own investments and with the support of FDI, we are creating value from a stronger and more diversified production base.
In 2015, the ASEAN Economic Community with a market of 600 million consumers will allow Thailand to serve more effectively as one of the production hubs for the global economy. We will continue to pursue policies to support this, as well as strengthen our economic links with East Asia and Asia-Pacific, through ASEAN-led FTAs and APEC.
But Thailand will not and cannot go it alone. We all need to do this together. So we hope to develop partnerships within our region and beyond, both bilateral and multilateral, so that all of us in East Asia can enjoy future growth and prosperity. This is a goal that I believe we should all work towards.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Allow me to conclude by saying that I am confident that with all of you present here at the Forum, our discussions over the next few days will help us find creative ways to achieve a future of shared growth, prosperity and greater connectivity in East Asia.
May I wish the Forum much success.