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Opening Statement by His Excellency General Prayut Chan-o-cha (Ret.), Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand at the 5th GMS Summit

Bangkok, Thailand
20 December 2014

Distinguished Guests, Ladies, and Gentlemen:

            On behalf of the Royal Thai government and Thai people, it is my honor and pleasure to welcome the President, the Premier, and the Prime Minister of the Greater Mekong Subregion Economic Cooperation Program to the 5th GMS Summit here in Bangkok. This fulfills our promise that we will meet every three years.

            On this occasion, Thai people have the honor of hosting the Summit and welcoming the Leaders and distinguished guests to Thailand, the Land of Smiles, the Land of Happiness, at this time of year with nice cool weather. I hope everyone has had a good night rest like when you were at your own homes. Please think of Thailand as your second home.

            Around two decades ago, who would believe that the peoples of our six countries would be able to commute easily and conveniently like today? No one would believe that entrepreneurs and industries would be able to transport raw materials or parts across Thailand-Lao PDR-Vietnam borders in one day. This is the result of our cooperation, bringing us success in building transport infrastructure that connects 320 million people. Finally, ASEAN realized the importance of establishing transport connectivity, thus putting forward the Master Plan on ASEAN connectivity, which all the member countries have jointly develop by 2015.

            With our location in Southeast Asia, the GMS countries are important and influential to the world’s economy. We are the kitchen of the world, and, with similar lifestyle, culture, traditions, and the Asian cultural heritage, we can attract foreign tourists who wish to see for themselves our prosperity once in a lifetime.

            At this point, you all should agree that the theme of the 5th GMS Summit, “Committed to the Inclusive and Sustainable Development in the GMS,” is most suitable for the world’s situation. The 3Cs that we have put forward include Connectivity (Building connectivity between countries), Competitiveness (Increasing competitiveness), and Community (Strengthening community).

            Three years ago in Nay Pyi Taw, the GMS countries assigned the officials to put together the ten-year Regional Investment Framework for 2012-2022, which has been carefully reviewed by the GMS Ministers. Included in it are the priority projects with investment worth US$ 30 billion. Today, we, as commanders, have considered it and approved to implement.

            I would like to propose that our action plan for the next decade should emphasize the following seven issues:

            First is to build transport connectivity along the economic corridors by establishing special border economic zones (SBEZs) along the border of each country. This is to stimulate growth in the region, and create jobs and income for people in the area. Thailand already established pilot special economic zones in five border areas: Mae Sot, Mukdahan, Sa Kaeo, Trat, and Songkhla.

            Second is to develop land and sea transport infrastructure, especially the two main railway routes between Aranyaprathet-Poipet, and Nong Khai-Vientiane-Kunming. Yesterday, His Excellency Mr. Li KeQiang and I signed an MOU to jointly develop two railway routes in Thailand: Nong Khai-Kangkoi-Bangkok, and Kangkoi Map Ta Phut. The founding of the Greater Mekong Railway Association (GMRA), which has been approved by all member countries, is the beginning of the collaboration for railways.

            At the same time, Thailand and Myanmar are collaborating to improve the Dawei Deep Sea Port and Special Economic Zone, which will be linked to Thailand’s Laem Chabang, and to Cambodia and Vietnam. This will also establish industrial clusters eventually.

            Besides, Thailand and Myanmar are discussing the possibility of building the second bridge at Mae Sot Myawaddy along Thailand-Lao border. The fifth Friendship Bridge (Bueng Kan-Pakxan in Boli Khamxai) has already been designed. Currently, Thailand and Lao PDR are discussing the investment.

            Third is to reduce cross-border customs procedures and time under the Cross Border Transport Agreement (CBTA). Member countries are asked to clarify rules and regulations that are still problematic. Thailand is ready to ratify at the beginning of 2015. Moreover, I propose that we should include Highway 8 and Highway 12 in Lao PDR (apart from Highway 9), which is connected to Nakhon Phanom, Thailand, in the MOU on the facilitation of goods and people across Thailand-Lao-Vietnam border. We may arrange cross-border transport along Bangkok-Savannakhet-Da Nang, or other routes. I have already discussed this with His Excellency the Prime Minister of Vietnam.

            Fourth is to develop energy sources. The demand for electricity in the region is growing significantly in the future, luckily with our capacity to generate power. Electricity generation is not only for domestic use and exchange between member countries, but can also extend to connect with the third countries. I am very pleased that we agreed to set up Regional Power Coordination Center (RPCC) to work on this especially.

            Fifth is to gather resources for development. I would like to humbly request cooperation from countries and international organizations that are our development partners in supporting the RIF. As for Thailand, the Neighboring Countries Economic Development Cooperation Agency (NEDA), and Thailand International Development Cooperation Agency (TICA) are two agencies that offer technical and financial support. Thailand’s money market and capital market are ready to help gather financial resources as well.

            Sixth is to increase benefits and encourage the private sector to invest in the region. The investment from the private sector is an important tool to create growth along the economic corridors. I propose credit insurance for small and medium businesses (SMEs), whose access to financial resources will help increase their capacity and competitiveness in the sub-region. Member countries in please modify rules and regulations to facilitate investment.

            Seventh is to preserve the environment and manage natural disasters. As you all are aware of, the preparation to handle environmental changes, which are becoming more severe, is important. Therefore, we have to enhance economic capacity to grow sustainability and be environmentally friendly, to achieve Green Mekong Economy eventually.

            Finally, I would like to thank every sector who is responsible for putting together this Summit. I hope for this Summit to be productive and successful, and for us to enter into the third decade of the GMS Economic Cooperation Program together.

            Thank you.

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