26 Oct 2021
The Prime Minister emphasised the need for ASEAN’s commitment to advancing the ASEAN Community while strengthening its cooperation and with external partners, in response to COVID-19 as well as highlighted the need to ensure ASEAN centrality and unity in order to maintain regional strategic equilibrium at the 38th and 39th ASEAN Summit.
On 26 October 2021, H.E. General Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister of Thailand, participated in the 38th and 39th ASEAN Summits via videoconference. The Meetings were chaired by His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei, in his capacity as the ASEAN Chair for 2021, and was attended by ASEAN Member States and the Secretary-General of ASEAN.
At the 38th ASEAN Summit, the Meeting reaffirmed ASEAN’s commitment to advancing the ASEAN Community in line with Brunei Darussalam’s ASEAN chairmanship theme “We Care, We Prepare, We Prosper”, and emphasised the need for ASEAN to strengthen its cooperation, and with external partners, in response to COVID-19.
In his statement, Prime Minister Prayut highlighted 3 key elements. First is enhancing public health cooperation in ASEAN to address the COVID-19. This includes the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines for ASEAN citizens through the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund. He also encouraged ASEAN Member States to enhance collaboration on research and development of COVID-19 vaccines through the sharing of expertise and experiences. Second is ensuring the safe reopening of the region by effectively operationalising the ASEAN Travel Corridor Arrangement Framework (ATCAF) to facilitate essential business travels between ASEAN Member States which could also be extended to cover tourism purpose. Moreover, in order to create an environment conducive for trade and investment and expand business opportunities, Prime Minister Prayut called for the early entry into force of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership as well as the launch of ASEAN-Canada FTA negotiations. Third, ASEAN should continue to promote sustainability. Prime Minister Prayut underscored the importance of promoting economic development which is sustainable and environmental friendly in line with Thailand’s BCG Economy Model. He also supported “ASEAN green agenda” which includes areas of cooperation such as clean energy, sustainable use of natural resources, digital inclusion, and sustainable urbanisation and green financing.
The Meeting adopted 13 outcome documents such as Bandar Seri Begawan Declaration on the Strategic and Holistic Initiative to Link ASEAN Responses to Emergencies and Disasters (ASEAN SHIELD, ASEAN Leaders’ Declaration on the Blue Economy, Consolidated Strategy on the Fourth Industrial Revolution for ASEAN, ASEAN Leaders’ Statement on Advancing Digital Transformation in ASEAN.
As for the 39th ASEAN Summit, the Meeting emphasised the importance of further strengthening partnerships and cooperation with Dialogue Partners and other external parties, and agreed to the proposals to convene the Special ASEAN-China Summit to commemorate 30 years of relations in November this year and the Special Summit to commemorate the 45th Anniversary of ASEAN-EU relations in 2022. The Meeting also exchanged views on regional developments including the South China Sea, the trilateral security partnership between Australia, the UK and the US (AUKUS), and the situation in Myanmar.
Prime Minister Prayut highlighted the need to ensure ASEAN centrality and unity in order to maintain regional strategic equilibrium by simultaneously pursuing the following 3 approaches. First, ASEAN need to enhance relations with external partners, and maintain ASEAN’s leading role in advancing its own initiatives in order to support ASEAN Community-building efforts. In this connection, Prime Minister Prayut welcomed ASEAN’s decision to accept the United Kingdom as Dialogue Partner of ASEAN. Second, ASEAN must maintain its centrality in the regional architecture and employ the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP) as a tool in constructively engaging ASEAN’s external parties. Third, ASEAN may consider new innovative approaches in engaging with China and the US in order to allow them to find commonalities on issues of mutual interest such as climate change and human capital development.
On the situation in Myanmar, Prime Minister Prayut stressed that Thailand would like to see peace and stability in Myanmar as well as the return of the democratic process and supported ASEAN’s constructive role in addressing the situation through the implementation of the 5-Point Consensus. Thailand also viewed that the role of the Special Envoy of the ASEAN Chair would help build trust and confidence as well as environment conducive to dialogue and consultation among all parties concerned. Furthermore, Thailand already provided humanitarian assistance to Myanmar people through ASEAN and bilateral channels and hoped that the humanitarian assistance would continue and be distributed to all sides. Prime Minister Prayut also emphasised the importance of ASEAN’s solidarity which ASEAN Member States should continue to uphold, where every family member of ASEAN is present.
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