Saturday, September 24, 2011

Thailand tells US it will try to build unity

Sept 24, 2011
Bangkok Post

NEW YORK : Thailand has assured the United States that it will strive to avoid conflicts with neighbouring countries and unify Asean to create political security in the grouping.

The message was released through the US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell during talks with Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly yesterday.

During the talks, Mr Campbell expressed concern about Thailand's waning role in Asean.

However, Mr Surapong informed Mr Campbell of the government's policy to build unity in Asean and reduce conflicts, especially between Thailand and Cambodia.

"If Thailand and Cambodia can achieve improved relations through negotiations, it can be used as a model to resolve other conflicts like that between Palestine and Israel," said Mr Surapong.

The minister also moved to allay the United States' concerns about political stability in Thailand following the July 3 election and highlighted attempts to promote reconciliation in the country.

Mr Campbell also expressed concern about Burmese refugees living along the Thai-Burmese border.

Mr Surapong said it was the right of Burmese refugees to consider whether they would like to go back to their home country. However, he reiterated that if they want to go back, they must be able to return safely and with dignity.

Mr Campbell said the economic crisis in the US would not affect the relationship between Washington and Asia and the US would continue assisting Asian countries.

In another development, Thailand wants to promote more investment with Portugal and learn about developing alternative energy sources, such as wind, solar and waves, to replace reliance on oil and gas, Mr Surapong said during talks with Portuguese Foreign Minister Paolo Portas.

He also urged Portugal to push for visa exemptions for diplomatic and official passports between the countries.

Mr Surapong said Portugal also asked Thailand to support East Timor in its bid to become a new member of Asean as the nomination is opposed by some members of the bloc.

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