Countries in the ASEAN region are developing transportation networks between one another and with East Asia. Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont addressed the priorities for ASEAN cooperation in the field of transport, which has a crucial role in sustaining and promoting economic and social development in this region.
In his address at the 12th ASEAN Transport Ministers Meeting in Bangkok on 8 February 2007, the Prime Minister listed some examples of ASEAN transport projects, namely the ASEAN Highway Network, the Economic Corridor under the Greater Mekong Subregion, and the Singapore-Kunming Rail Link. ASEAN is building the missing links,as seen from recent successes, including the Second Friendship Bridge across the Mekong. He cited physical connections as one part of building transportation networks, but more coordinated efforts are required to achieve the ASEAN Community by 2015.
Prime Minister Surayud said that in order to accelerate progress on the ASEAN Community, work in three key areas is needed. Firstly, it is necessary to remove non-physical impediments to the free flow of goods, services, and people. The documents and agreements, comprising the so-called software,will truly help facilitate flows and reduce the cost of doing business. That is why Thailand proposed the creation of One-Stop-Service Centers to facilitate transport along ASEAN’s new routes.
Secondly, ASEAN needs to develop regional training centers for their officials, as part of broader initiatives to promote capacity- building and human resources development. In the third area, ASEAN needs to mobilize sufficient resources for their efforts, both on the physical and the human aspects. The Asian Development Bank has estimated that ASEAN would require at least 200 to 300 billion US dollars over the next four years to build essential infrastructure and develop linkages. Such investments will require innovative forms of financing, including Asian bonds, and more intensified cooperation with ASEAN development partners.
While building transport linkages, Prime Minister Surayud said that Thailand is convinced that ASEAN’s efforts have to be sustainable over the long run. Instead, recent developments have moved the sector away from sustainability. Congestion and bottlenecks in urban areas have become a daily fact in Thailand, as in other ASEAN countries. The impacts mean that the transport situation has become a threat, not just to the environment and human health, but also to the overall health of the ASEAN economies.
He said that concerns over sustainability have been stimulated within Thailand by His Majesty the King’s philosophy of Sufficiency Economy. This philosophy can help action in this sector through the theme of sustainable transport.It means having a transport policy that focuses on reducing costs, conserving energy, and preserving the environment.