Bandar Seri Begawan {The Nation/ ANN} — Thailand made another push for development projects in the Mekong River basin when foreign ministers of five countries in the region sat together with counterparts from dialogue partners.

Foreign Minister Surapong Towichukchaikul yesterday and Sunday joined a series of meetings with counterparts from the basin as well as from Japan, South Korea and United States to discuss developments for bridging gaps, connectivity and community integration of the sub-regional and regional grouping.

Ministers from the Mekong basin also included those from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

"Thailand is no longer a receiver, but a donor for the Mekong basin. We cannot give to all, so we play the role of coordinating to bring resources from other partners into the region," Surapong told reporters.

In a meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, Surapong said Japan retained its strong interest in the Thai-invested Dawei economic zone in Myanmar.

Kishida commissioned Japanese officials to consult with Myanmar before a tri-party meeting this month, he said.

Japan was also invited to help develop skills for workers in Myanmar, he said.

Environment and disaster were other important issues for the Mekong region. Thailand urged Japan to closely cooperate with the region to develop a weather forecast system to prevent or reduce the severe impact of natural disasters. Thailand and Japan would co-host the second Green Mekong Forum soon to discuss environmental management, he said.

In the meeting of Mekong-South Korea, Surapong said he invited South Korea to be a development partner for infrastructure connectivity. South Korea is now currently conducting a feasibility study for Cambodia's Road No. 48.

South Korea would also be invited to contribute to agriculture development, notably on warehouses and silos for farm products in the region, he said.

Korean plan

Thailand praised a South Korean idea to establish a special fund for development in the mekong basin.

US Secretary of State John Kerry attended the Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI) ministerial meeting yesterday in Brunei to highlight the role of the US in the region. The US emphasized the need for cooperation on public health, education and connectivity, Surapong said.

Kerry was in Brunei for the annual meeting with counterparts from Asean. The LMI was created in 2009 for the US, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam to boost the US role in the Mekong sub-region to balance Chinese influence.

The LMI emphasized working together in six pillars; agriculture and food safety; connectivity; education; energy security; environment and water; and health.

Kerry said the LMI, together with Asean, the ASEAN Regional Forum, the East Asia Summit as well as other regional cooperation were part of the US' 'rebalancing strategy' to achieve peace, stability and prosperity.


Source: The Cambodia Herald

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