Thailand has set priorities to ensure an emerging ASEAN Community during its one-and-a-half-year Chairmanship of ASEAN.Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama touched on the issue of ASEAN Community in his remarks on Thailand’s Role in the Stability of ASEAN at a luncheon hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce in Bangkok on 28 May 2008.
Mr. Noppadon told the American business community that Thailand’s assumption of the ASEAN Chairmanship would begin this July and will last until December 2009. An important milestone for this will be the entry into force of the ASEAN Charter, which is expected by the 14th ASEAN Summit in Bangkok this December.
ASEAN aims to become a Community by the year 2015 – a community built on three pillars: political-security, economic, and socio-cultural. In its first priority, Thailand wants to see ASEAN become people-centered. It intends to pay particular attention to the socio-cultural dimension of ASEAN. This is to make ASEAN better able to address issues affecting human security and the well-being of its people.
Major objectives are to strengthen ASEAN’s ability to respond to crises and emergencies, such as natural disasters, to promote human security by striving toward food security and energy security, and to enhance the sense of belonging and the sense of ownership among all 567 million ASEAN citizens.
According to Mr. Noppadon, one concrete activity Thailand plans is an ASEAN Civil Society Conference, to be held in parallel with this year’s ASEAN Summit. The conference will be one channel for civil society to offer inputs to ASEAN leaders on the ASEAN community-building.
Second, Thailand wants ASEAN to prosper as a single market and production base that is competitive, equitable, and fully integrated into the global economy. It also wants ASEAN to be connected with networks of road, rail, air, and sea linkages, thus facilitating trade and tourism.
Third, Mr. Noppadon said, ASEAN must implement its Charter with effectiveness. Thailand will ensure that all necessary details be in place for new organs, including the Committee of Permanent Representatives to ASEAN in Jakarta and the ASEAN Coordinating Council. It looks forward to establishing an ASEAN human rights body as soon as possible to advance the cause of human rights within ASEAN.
Finally, he said, ASEAN must continue to be outward-looking, through trade agreements with the six dialogue partners in the East Asia Summit and similar agreements with the European Union and the United States. One of his priorities is to strengthen friendly ties with Thailand’s neighbors through the neighbor engagement policy.
The Foreign Minister stressed that Thailand would make ASEAN more relevant, action-oriented, and competitive, while catering to the needs of the people in the region. These are the ingredients for long-term stability in ASEAN.