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Asean puts water on agenda

Posted by arnon_k On November - 16 - 2011 ADD COMMENTS

Asean leaders are expected to beef up regional cooperation in water resources management aimed at preventing severe flooding that threatens the lives of its citizens and damages national and regional economies.

They are set to issue a statement entitled “Cooperation on Flood Prevention, Mitigation, Relief, Recovery and Rehabilitation” on the eve of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s first attendance at the Asean Summit.

Regional leaders are expected to boost cooperation on disaster risk management and mitigation by sharing best practices in water resources management.

The statement is expected to note that severe flooding affects agricultural production and regional food security as well as regional and global industrial supply chains. Asean will also aim to boost post-crisis relief, recovery and rehabilitation as well as improve the effectiveness of coordination efforts.

Leaders are also expected to agree that the role of the Asean secretary-general, in his capacity as Asean Human Assistance Coordinator, be enhanced to ensure the sustainability of the AHA Centre in boosting cooperation among members and dialogue partners in disaster management.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will announce new support for the Philippines and flood-hit Thailand as she shores up ties with key US allies, officials said yesterday.

Mrs Clinton was due to arrive in the Philippines yesterday and will head later this week to Thailand, part of a renewed US focus on Asia. President Barack Obama is travelling separately to Australia, another long-time ally in the region.

A State Department official said Mrs Clinton would offer a “very substantial” aid package to Thailand and hoped to reach out to the public in America’s oldest Asian ally.

“One of the messages that the secretary will bring directly to the Thai people and the government is that we believe it is in the national security and political interest of the United States to have this government succeed,” the official was quoted as saying.

“We will do what we can to support that going forward. There are substantial tensions in Thailand and those tensions will not be resolved after one or even a few elections.”

Mrs Clinton and Mr Obama will head later this week to Bali for an East Asia Summit, hoping to show a strong US commitment to a forum where several Asian countries had initially sought to exclude the US.

Asean experts call for more relief boats

Posted by arnon_k On October - 20 - 2011 ADD COMMENTS

Boats are the most-needed items in the flood relief effort, says a team of Asean experts.

The team has spent the past three days touring flood-hit areas and observing relief operations.

They say the speed with which the boats are delivered will be a key to managing the crisis.

The eight-member Emergency Rapid Assessment Team (Erat) led by Singaporean David Chow said they recommended the Asean bloc supplies 500 boats, among other items.

The observation tour included a trip to Suphan Buri and Pathum Thani as well as the Don Mueang-based flood relief operations centre.

“Medical supplies, water purifiers, food, mobile toilets and sleeping pads are needed, but boats are the most important to move people around and for search and rescue operations,” said Mr Chow.

Formed as a response to Cyclone Nargis in Burma in 2008 because the junta did not allow the United Nations to assess the damage, Erat has worked in Burma twice and in Indonesia’s Mentawai Island after it was hit by a tsunami this year. The Thai flood crisis is their fourth operation.

Arun Pinta, a planning and policy analyst on the team, said it is trying to develop guidelines and procedures for its work in Asean countries.

It was up to the host country whether it decided to follow the team’s recommendations.

“We are here to support the government and whether or how our recommendations are executed depends largely on how Asean members respond to our reports,” he said.

The team’s report would try to be precise, down to the specification of the boats needed.

“The supplies do not necessarily have to come from Asean countries,” he said.

Surapong will listen to criticism

Posted by arnon_k On August - 10 - 2011 ADD COMMENTS

Newly appointed Foreign Minister Surapong Towijakchaikul on Wednesday admitted he is new to the job but said he will perform his duty to the best of his ability.

He said he was ready to listen to criticism and advice, especially from ministry officials, and learn from it.

Mr Surapong said his priorities were improve international relations, be prepared for Asean and Apec meetings, rebuild the country’s image and create confidence in Thailand among the international community to encourage tourism.

Particular importance would be attached to relations with countries in the Middle East, he said.

Asked about the possibility of re-issuing passports for former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Mr Surapong said he would first see how they had been issued and then revoked.

Mr Surapong was earlier tipped for the post of information and communication technology minister, but was switched to the foreign affairs portfolio – reportedly because Thaksin could not find an outsider for the post.

The new foreign minister is known to be regarded highly by Thaksin who, having been convicted of absuing his authority while prime minister, has been denied entry by many countries.

Abhisit rules out talks with Hun Sen at Asean

Posted by arnon_k On May - 5 - 2011 ADD COMMENTS

Thailand to query the word ‘vicinity’ at ICJ
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva indicated yesterday he had no intention of holding talks on the border clashes with Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen at the Asean Summit in Indonesia.

Don’t forget that I met Hun Sen four times late last year, and then in February clashes erupted,” Mr Abhisit said.

“And I insist that each clash is not an accident. It is an intention to internationalise the issue.”

The clashes are part of Cambodia’s strategy in dealing with territorial disputes, according to the premier.

He also doubted Cambodia’s claim that the fighting continued because in part it could not control its troops.

Mr Abhisit said Thailand was making preparations to face Cambodia at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which has asked Thailand and Cambodia to give statements on May 30-31.

Cambodia has asked the court to interpret its 1962 verdict on the Preah Vihear temple and issue an urgent ruling, including an immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Thai troops from the land surrounding the temple and a ban on Thai military activity in the area.

In the 1962 verdict, the court said: “Thailand is under an obligation to withdraw any military or police forces, or other guards or keepers, stationed by her at the temple, or in its vicinity on Cambodian territory.”

Cambodia wants the ICJ to interpret the term “vicinity” mentioned in the ruling.

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said the Thai team to the ICJ will be led by Thai ambassador to the Hague, Virachai Plasai.

It will comprise three lawyers from France, Canada and Australia, chief of Treaties and Legal Affairs Department Ittiporn Boonpracong, and legal officials who will act as secretaries.

“The special legal committee will go to the Hague a few days before the court hearing to meet the three foreign advisers and prepare a statement for Mr Virachai to deliver to the court.

“They will have only three or four hours to clarify the Cambodian complaints with the 15 ICJ committees,” Mr Kasit said.

After the hearing, Bangkok and Phnom Penh will have at least four or five months to send written statements to the ICJ.

“We think the court will make a decision after the New Year as at least five of 15 ICJ committees’ terms will end and there will be changes in their members,” Mr Kasit said.

Meanwhile, the House committee on foreign affairs yesterday voiced an objection to the government’s plan to face Cambodia in the ICJ.

Pheu Thai MP Torpong Chaiyasarn, head of the committee, said the government should instead opt for negotiations to resolve the dispute or let a new administration handle the issue.

Mr Kasit hit back at Mr Torpong for making the suggestion.

“The suggestion is misleading because the public may think the government has done something wrong, and, therefore, has to go to the ICJ. The committee should not talk about this issue to the media directly.

“If it has any questions, it should ask the government for clarifications first,” Mr Kasit said.

In a statement issued today, the Press and Quick Reaction Unit of the Office of the Council of Ministers accused Thailand of threatening peace and stability in the region with its war-like stance, and damaging Preah Vihear.

“For that reason, all neighbouring countries together with the international community should make joint efforts to put an end to this dangerous policy so that we can enjoy a lasting peace and stability in Southeast Asia,” it said.

“Thai leaders should know that the world of the 21st century needs a new vision, a vision of peace rooted in justice, a vision of a world bound together in intentional community dedicated to the well-being of all people.

“Peace rooted in justice requires the nurturing of a culture of peace in homes, communities, nations and across the world,” the statement said.