Viewpoint : Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha

For over half a century ASEAN members have worked together to preserve peace, stability and prosperity in the region. Not only have we provided assistance to alleviate problems caused by natural disasters, but our members have successfully responded to one another’s emergencies in times of need. However, as we reach the 50th anniversary of the association it is a good time to seriously review what we can do to improve, in order to meet the expectations of people in the region and benefit our member countries.

Drawing on the lessons from Brexit, the region must further strengthen itself to be a people-centred community that leaves no one behind. We must ensure that all 10 member states press forward together in line with the ASEAN Community Vision 2025, particularly in terms of implementing legal agreements that support the promotion of human security. ASEAN should be dynamic, innovative and creatively connected to the Asia-Pacific region, as well as the international arena.

In addition, the association should give priority to factors that drive the economic growth of the region, especially the promotion of innovation from start-ups, entrance into the digital economy and new industries. These are the main priorities being developed through the implementation of the Thailand 4.0 policy. Furthermore, to strengthen the development of an ASEAN brand for micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), which are the backbone of the region’s industry, we should set up a system to improve the credit ratings of the region’s MSMEs. This would help boost the capacity of such enterprises to seek loans and expand their markets, both regionally and globally.

The region also needs to speed up integration both within and outside the region, as outlined in the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025, particularly in terms of its connections with North-east Asia, through China’s Belt and Road Initiative, and the Indian subcontinent. Accordingly, the region should ensure quick implementation of the ASEAN Framework Agreement on the Facilitation of Goods in Transit. Thailand is also improving its special economic zones and continuously promoting investments with neighbouring countries through the ASEAN+1 agreement to connect manufacturing bases. The association must also strengthen its internal resilience against new and existing challenges.

I am pleased that we have made considerable progress in tackling regional air pollution, particularly after the adoption of the ASEAN haze-free roadmap in 2016. Another significant achievement is the enforcement of the ASEAN Convention against Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.

There are three additional issues related to security that we must continue to push forward: first, a systematic cooperation regarding border management through effective exchange of information and intelligence; second, we must promote ASEAN’s capabilities in dealing with challenges such as terrorism and extremism, and lastly, we should promote the region’s capacity to deal with cybersecurity threats through the establishment of a regional centre. The implementation of both development and anti-terrorism policies can be achieved through the exchange of intelligence and best practices on moderation and interfaith dialogue. This involves solving the root cause of problems which include a lack of economic and social opportunities, poverty and human rights violations.

We should move towards becoming a community that promotes human security, whereby all stakeholders have a role in and benefit from these measures. To this end, ASEAN should enhance cooperation at the regional level to achieve sustainable development goals and build partnerships with countries and international organisations outside of the region.

By establishing such partnerships, projects can be developed to enable environmental protection and green growth, promote the economic empowerment of women and address child malnutrition, along with other important issues on the public health agenda.