Thailand hosted delegations from all LMI countries for the September 27-28 Regional Working Group meeting of the Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI). The senior-level delegations comprised diplomats and officials from the participating nations, including representatives of such ministries/departments as foreign affairs, education, environment, public health, development, public works and transport, economic affairs, agriculture, labor, and energy. The Lower Mekong Initiative brings the six nations together to build regional cooperation and capacity in the areas of agriculture and food security, connectivity, education, energy security, environment and water, and health.

Thailand and the United States co-chaired the two-day meeting, which reviewed commitments from the LMI Ministerial in Phnom Penh in July, 2012, and developed plans for future cooperation among the six countries, advancing the work of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her counterparts. LMI delegates from the United States, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Vietnam warmly welcomed their colleagues from Nay Pyi Taw, who were participating in the LMI Regional Working Group for the first time.

At the LMI meeting in Phuket senior officials approved concept notes for the Agriculture and Food Security and Energy Security Pillars. Specific projects discussed included the positive results of the English for Specific Purposes course, which officials intend to follow-up on; collaboration on cross-border disease surveillance and outbreak control, with attention to legal and illegal migrant populations; and a best practices exchange on infrastructure development which will be held in January, 2013 along with a series of road-and-bridge workshops. Senior officials also discussed proposals on water management from Vietnam and on the promotion of disaster risk reduction education from Thailand

Co-chair Nirav Patel, head of the U.S. delegation and Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs at the U.S. Department of State remarked, “The United States is re-confirming its commitment to the Lower Mekong Initiative and bringing the discussion of LMI priorities and programs to the medium-term horizon.”

Co-chair Isorn Pocmontri, head of the Thai delegation and Ambassador Attached to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated, “Thailand stands ready to cooperate with the United States in its capacity as partner for development.” and observed that the discussions at the Regional Working Group meeting this year have been very substantive and sufficiently productive in achieving the aims and objectives of the Lower Mekong Initiative.”

Delegates agreed to continue joint efforts to embed youth and women’s issues in LMI programming, increase the role of the private sector in achieving objectives set out in the LMI Plan of Action, and improve cross-sectoral communication among pillars.

Plans are being developed for the fourth LMI Regional Working Group meeting in Vietnam which will take place before the next LMI Ministerial, planned for 2013 in Brunei Darussalam.

Source: U.S. Embassy Bangkok, Thailand

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