As head of the Thai delegation, the Director-General of the Department of ASEAN Affairs, Mr. Arthayuth Srisamoot, has attended the Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI) and the Friends of the Lower Mekong (FLM) Senior Officials’ Meetings. These two events took place in Yangon, the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, on 8 June 2014.
Founded in 2009, the Lower Mekong Initiative aims to promote a partnership between the United States and the Mekong countries with a view to enhancing sustainable economic growth in the Sub-region. Areas of cooperation involve environment and water, public health, education, connectivity, agriculture and food security, and energy security.
The LMI member countries are Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, and the United States. They were joined at FLM by representatives from Australia, New Zealand, the European Union, Japan, the Republic of Korea and the ASEAN Secretariat. Mr. Michael Fuchs, US Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, and Mr. San Lwin, Director-General of the Department of Political Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Myanmar, co-chaired LMI.
The meeting exchanged views on the LMI plan for the next 5 years (2016-2020), which would form a basis for the ASEAN post-2015 vision and ASEAN Centrality, which aims to narrow the development gap and to promote sustainable development in the region. Thailand invited the United States to engage in ASEAN Development vision to achieve peace, stability and prosperity in the Mekong region.
The meeting also discussed the tasks of the Eminent and Expert Persons Group (EEPG). Thailand also named 2 EEPs: Dr. Suthad Setboonsarng, former Deputy Secretary-General of the ASEAN Secretariat, and Associate Professor Dr. Ruth Banomyong, Department of International Business, Logistics and Transport Management, Thammasat University as EEPG.
The meeting tasked EEPG with recommendations towards sustainable development in LMI and to see that existing projects complement projects of other regional frameworks so that ASEAN can engage more with the private sector participation. The challenges of the food, water and energy nexus are among issues being intensely discussed. The United States lent much emphasis on cross-cutting issues of food, water and energy security and these will be discussed at the next LMI Ministerial Meeting in August 2014.
As for FLM, it discussed advancing sustainable development in the Mekong region. The meeting recognized the FLM’s role as driving forces to coordinate key issues affecting the region. It appreciated Japan’s commitment to supporting Women’s Entrepreneurial Center for Research, Education, Access and Training for Economic Empowerment. The meeting also agreed that it was important to make sure that FLM would support ASEAN Community-building and sustainable and inclusive growth in the region.