Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya has assured the members of BIMSTEC that Thailand would continue its active role in enhancing BIMSTEC connectivity. The Foreign Minister gave his assurances in his statement at the 13th BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar,
BIMSTEC, the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation, comprises seven member countries, namely Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.
In his statement, Foreign Minister Kasit said that apart from providing financial and technical assistance in the area of road construction, particularly along the Thailand-Myanmar-India road link, Thailand fully supports the development of Dawei Deep Sea Port in Myanmar, which will become a gateway through which the region can connect with traditional and emerging markets to the west of BIMSTEC. With its firm commitments in the connectivity agenda, he is sure that BIMSTEC can create modern Silk Routes, both on land and sea, where Southeast Asia and South Asia together make growth and prosperity. Besides the connectivity issue, he said, Thailand believes that there are other areas of cooperation that should be given steadfast attention.
Firstly, an open regional economy driven by free market forces will foster intra-BIMSTEC trade and increase its economies’ resilience to external shocks. In this regard, Thailand reiterates its support for the early completion of the Trade in Goods Agreement under the BIMSTEC FTA.
Secondly, given BIMSTEC countries’ rich histories and cultures, Thailand attaches great importance to three related sectors, namely tourism, culture, and people-to-people contact. Thailand reiterated its offer to arrange a program that promotes those three related areas, including religious trails. It welcomed active cooperation from all BIMSTEC Members to jointly implement this program.
Thirdly, Thailand believes that BIMSTEC should harness the region’s abundant natural resources to promote renewable energy, particularly hydropower and biofuel. Thailand has selected tapioca, palm oil, and molasses as raw materials for biofuel. In this regard, Thailand welcomes the signing of the Memorandum of Association for the Establishment of the BIMSTEC Energy Centre, and reassures its firm commitment to advance energy cooperation in BIMSTEC.
Furthermore, the Foreign Minister said that Thailand would also like to support more cooperation in the sustainability and safety of the Bay of Bengal. Concerning the venue of the BIMSTEC Permanent Secretariat, he congratulated Bangladesh for having been selected to host the Permanent Secretariat, and also congratulated Sri Lanka for its future role as the first Secretary-General of BIMSTEC.
With the 7 November 2010 elections in Myanmar, BIMSTEC is now a region of six aspiring democracies. Foreign Minister Kasit urged the member countries to work together to help nurture each other in the process of further democratization. He also proposed that the Asian Development Bank be invited to conduct a comprehensive assessment of BIMSTEC cooperation, in order to identify key priority areas and formulate appropriate strategies. Over the past 13 years, BIMSTEC has expanded its scope of activities to meet new challenges, so it needs to set priorities and clear directions in which it should move forward.