Thailand has made continuous efforts to develop key infrastructure elements in order to enhance connectivity and help narrow development gaps between countries. The efforts will also improve ASEAN’s competitiveness, while promoting intra-regional trade, investment, tourism, and people-to-people contact.
Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya touched on the issues of infrastructure development and regional connectivity in his keynote address at a joint dissemination seminar for the book Infrastructure for a Seamless Asia on April 28 in Bangkok. The seminar was co-hosted by the Asian Development Bank Institute, the Asian Development Bank, and the Thailand Development Research Institute.
In his address, the Foreign Minister pointed out that, apart from making ASEAN Community a reality, infrastructure development and regional connectivity are essential to the development of Thailand, ASEAN, and Asia as a more competitive and dynamic partner to the rest of the world and a building bloc for a more creative and green economy.
From 2003 to 2008, Thailand provided about 13 billion baht worth of financial and technical assistance to neighboring countries through various subregional cooperation frameworks. Two-thirds of this assistance has been allocated to the construction of 30 infrastructure development projects in the region. So Thailand has become more of a rising donor country. A few examples of Thailand’s contributions include the third and fourth Mekong bridges connecting Thailand with Lao PDR.
These contributions, he said, show Thailand's untiring commitment in enhancing physical connectivity and promoting shared prosperity in Asia, as a means to help close development gaps within the Mekong subregion.
According to Foreign Minister Kasit, Thailand has been working with partners both within and outside the region to achieve regional connectivity. ASEAN has an important role to play in creating and fostering a region of “seamless” connectivity, an image that ASEAN strives to realize, within ASEAN itself and between ASEAN and its external partners.
During the 15th ASEAN Summit in Thailand, the ASEAN leaders agreed that a High Level Task Force on ASEAN Connectivity be established to study ASEAN’s internal and external connectivity and to draft a Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity. Foreign Minister Kasit believed that an important aspect of ASEAN Connectivity, aside from the development of hardware infrastructure, is the software side, which deals with cross-border facilitation.
However, he said, increased cross-flows in goods, services, and people could also bring about unintended negative consequences, such as pollution, the rise in transnational crime, pandemics, and illicit trafficking in arms. It is therefore important to develop appropriate safeguards to deal with these consequences.
In addition, the greater prosperity for the peoples of Southeast Asia also requires peace and stability generated by a greater sense of shared belonging by the peoples of the region, a rules-based environment that can give confidence to investors, and a platform for greater connectivity with other regions.