Prime Minister and Defense Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha attended the 3rd Mekong-Lancang Cooperation (MLC) Leaders’ Meeting via a teleconference. Also participating in the meeting were leaders of the 6 member countries. Mr. Anucha Burapachaisri, Government Spokesperson, disclosed gist of the meeting as follows:
At the opening of the meeting, Prime Minister Thonglun Sisoulith, as co-chair, delivered an opening speech to express honor to co-chair the meeting, and to thank other member countries for the help in coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. Prime Minister of Lao PDR also expressed confidence that cooperation under the MLC framework would engender sub-regional prosperity, and economic and social development, as well as a resilient recovery after COVID-19 amidst current challenges.
Prime Minister Li Keqiang, then, delivered an opening speech, as co-chair of the meeting. He thanked leaders of all MLC member countries, and emphasized that despite COVID-19, the sub-region’s cooperation must be continued to promote sustainable economic development through trade connectivity.
Leaders of other member countries, then, took turn to deliver their statement. The Prime Minister, on behalf of Thailand, expressed his appreciation for MLC’s continuous progress and increasing cooperation.
Despite being held via a video conference, the meeting demonstrates the commitment of all parties to continuously expand cooperation amidst the challenges posed by COVID-19. According to the Prime Minister, this would be another occasion for the MLC to work together to turn challenges into an opportunity to enhance cooperation and partnership.
Thailand believed that the Vientiane Declaration would underscore MLC’s collective commitment to extend cooperation in political and security sphere, and economic and sustainable development, among others, especially the MLC Special Fund, which will support 10 approved projects from Thailand this year.
The Prime Minister took the opportunity to highlight 4 areas of cooperation on which Thailand places great importance:
1) Water resource management
Thailand suggests that water resource management cooperation in upstream, midstream, and downstream areas be monitored and evaluated in order to further expand collaboration and to achieve concrete outcomes that are beneficial to people living in the Mekong Basin. In addition, Thailand proposes that this platform bring in experiences and good practices on the Mekong River Commission (MRC), as well as the regular meetings between Ministers responsible for water resource in order to advance the cooperation at the policy level.
2) Health security
The fact that Thailand has been recognized worldwide for its efficient control of COVID-19 situation owes not to the nationwide efforts, but also to the country’s health security policy which emphasizes on the readiness of medical personnel and infrastructure, access to public health services and medication, and crisis-preparedness. The country stands ready to cooperate with the global community in vaccine research and development, in particular, with the WHO, and strives to develop its capacity to become production base for medications and vaccines in the sub region in the near future. Thailand also agrees with the member countries that the vaccine, once successfully produced, should be made global public good, accessible to everyone.
Thailand encourages MLC member countries to enhance connectivity in all dimensions, both physical, regulatory, and people-to-people, as well as linking economic corridors to work in synergy and complementarily with sub regional cooperation initiatives and frameworks, such as ASEAN, ACMECS, BRI, etc., especially in the fields of transport and logistics, digital, energy, and human resource development. Economic openness and the easing of control measures must be well-balanced with regional health security.
4) Post COVID-19 economic recovery and sustainable development
The Prime Minister considers building resilience of the private sector a key factor that will lay a solid and sustainable economic foundation. Thailand proposes that the MLC lend more support to the private sector, especially MSMEs, and jointly stimulates economic activities, cross border trade, tourism, and people-to-people exchange, while taking into account public health security.
Lastly, the Prime Minister underscored MLC’s strong willingness and determination to jointly address challenges posed by several uncertainties, by turning the crisis into an opportunity for more constructive cooperation in order to create an environment conducive to growth, stability, and unity, and to ensure sustainable development and prosperity of citizens, without leaving anyone behind.