Brunei keen to buy more rice from Thailand: PM

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BRUNEI, Sept 11 – Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said on Sunday that Brunei is interested in importing more Thai jasmine rice, she reported while making her first official overseas trip since assuming office last month.

Ms Yingluck paid a courtesy call on Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah at his palace to introduce herself as Thailand’s new prime minister Saturday evening, and she attended a state banquet hosted by the sultan.

The premier told reporters afterward that she presented books on the royal projects of His Majesty King Bhumibol to the Sultan of Brunei who expressed interest in Thai jasmine rice, and said Brunei is ready to import more of Thailand’s signature commodity to his kingdom.

Brunei is also willing to work with the Thai government and has agreed to exchange knowledge, technology and other cooperation including education, medical services and agriculture, Ms Yingluck said.

The Thai premier said Brunei is willing to increase the employment and care of Thai workers, while Thailand is ready to support development of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) under the leadership of Brunei in the year 2013.

In response to a Brunei media report that fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra had entered the sultanate before Ms Yingluck arrived, the Thai premier denied the report.

Ms Yingluck returned to Thailand early Sunday morning after her one-day visit to Brunei, the first country of her introductory rounds of visits to ASEAN members in alphabetical order. On Monday she will visit Indonesia, the current regional bloc chair, then go to Phnom Penh on Thursday and fly to Vientiane the following day.