Thailand has called on entrepreneurs to take part in the development of the Mekong subregion and contribute to the prosperity and stability of the subregion.
The call was made by Prime Minister of Thailand in his remarks on the topic “Making the Mekong: Regional Growth and Leadership” at the 19th World Economic Forum on East Asia in Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam, on June 6. The Mekong subregion comprises Cambodia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Thailand, Viet Nam, and Yunnan province of China. Except China, the five countries along the Mekong River are members of ASEAN, the region that is moving toward a single market of over 600 million people by 2015.
Prime Minister said that, over the past five years, Thailand has contributed 370 million US dollars to the funds for developing the subregion. He identified four areas as the main objectives in terms of development of this subregion.
First, he believed that the Mekong subregion could contribute much to the issue of food and energy security, not only at the subregional level but also the regional level and even at the global level. The determination for all the Mekong nations is that they would be able to make good use of the rich endowment of natural and human resources, home-grown technology, and wisdom, so that they could link the Mekong subregion farmers to the global supply chain.
The second objective is very much in line with the issue of connectivity at regional and subregional levels. Countries along the Mekong wanted to make sure that there is a logistics network that links them up. And in Thailand’s case, the Prime Minister stated that it was moving ahead on this agenda very rapidly. Recently, the Thai government had approved the fourth bridge across the Mekong River, which will link Chiang Khong district of Chiang Rai in Thailand with Huasai and Bo Kaew in Laos. It is, in fact, the last missing link as far as the North-South Economic Corridor is concerned. Thailand has set aside a fund to invest in creating this logistics network. It has the Neighboring Countries Economic Development Cooperation Agency, which provides soft loans for neighboring countries, so that they can have additional financial sources to build necessary infrastructure.
The third objective involves investment in human resources. Thailand has a number of universities, as well as the Thailand International Cooperation Agency, the Mekong Institute, and other ministries’ agencies that are now heavily involved in providing training, so that it could convert these networks of transport corridors into true economic corridors.
The final objective, which is important for the longer-term future, involves efforts to maintain environmental sustainability. The theme of development in this subregion is “meeting the needs while keeping the balance.”
Prime Minister also made two more points; one calls for a special development fund to help small and local enterprises that rely on local wisdom, and the other calls for the participation of all stakeholders in this development process.