Thailand Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha has outlined his vision of the future for the CLMVT (Cambodia, Lao, Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand) in which the region seamlessly integrates with larger regional and global economic corridors, with the private sector playing a major role.
Speaking during the opening of a Thailand initiated ACMECS CEO Forum following the 8th Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS) Summit, General Chan-o-cha said ACMEC countries should focus on linking up with China’s ‘Belt and Road’ and the ‘Free and Open Indo – Pacific’ strategies developed by the US and others.
Inviting the private sector to partner with governments throughout the CLMVT, General Chan-o-cha said the private sector will be the driver of regional supply chain integration, which will enable all sectors of the economy to move together simultaneously. The result, he said, would see the sub-region transform into a single production base.
Saying that increased Public – Private Partnership (PPP) is required for the region’s potential to be realised, the Prime Minister noted Thailand’s Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) project which has six PPP projects worth a combined Bt608 billion (about US$18.970 bln) at its core. (See: Thailand’s Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC): The Hard Sell Begins)
Private Sector Invitation Extends To Soft Development
ACMECSHighlighting Thailand’s aim for seamless infrastructure connectivity, General Chan-o-cha called on the private sector to work with the public sector and civil societies to create secured and friendly environments for cross border cooperation.
“The Asian Development Bank (ADB) estimates that the Southeast Asia region will require as much as $15 billion, accounting for 6 per cent of GDP. The amount is too huge for governments alone to foot the bill, hence we need to forge public-private partnerships”, he said.
It’s not only physical developments where Thailand says it wants to see increased private sector participation, but soft development also.
Inviting the private sector to take an active role in determining targets for human resources development and innovation, General Chan-o-cha challenged the private sector to “seize the opportunities from the economic strength that is emerging within Asia in order to move toward sustainable development and narrow the development gaps.
“Disparity in financial regulations” to allow for more flexibility is still an issue that needs to be addressed he said, adding that “particular focus should be on projects that link with Thailand’s EEC and which can be further linked to key economic corridors within ACMECS” and outside.
Stressing that Thailand’s focus is on power and unity, General Chan-o-cha said Thailand was ready to supply ongoing technical support to ACMECS member states, particularly under the sufficiency economy philosophy programme.
Thailand’s Regional Image Gets a Boost
During the two-day 8th ACMECS Summit leading up to the CEO Forum, Thailand saw its status as a regional driver of growth and diplomacy significantly rise with the signing two documents aimed at boosting regional growth and a proposed infrastructure and development fund as a step toward regional self sufficiency and sustainability.
After adopting the so-called “Bangkok Declaration” underlining the cooperation commitment of the CLMVT cluster, the meeting then agreed to adopt a Thailand-initiated ‘ACMECS master plan’ for regional and subregional development through until 2023.
Aimed at integrating the subregion into global value and supply chains through the application of knowledge, innovation, and access to digital technology, the 2019-2023 ACMECS Master Plan relies on extensive use of PPPs to achieve its goals of an ‘Integrated and Connected Mekong Community’.
Described in similar terms to that used for the EEC — “the first of its kind” — in ACMECS 15-year history, the 2019-2023 ACMECS Master Plan focuses on infrastructure, regulation harmonisation, and human resource development.
Under the plan the subregion will grow to become the ‘de-facto “land bridge” linking the economies and markets of the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, as well as other parts of Asia and the world. Freer flowing goods, services, and investment will be the result.
Self Sufficient Infrastructure & Development Fund
While Thailand’s EEC pays a key role in inter- and intra-regional connectivity and will see flow-on benefits to neighbouring countries, it was the proposal of a regional development fund where Thailand demonstrated its ability to look beyond its own borders and put some meat on its previous commitments to ensuring regional progression with no one being left behind.
According to a statement issued by Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) the proposed “ACMECS Fund” will help provide a clear, sustainable, and independent source of funds for projects implemented under the 2019-2023 ACMECS Master Plan.
While acknowledging that the support of international organisations, financial institutions, and development partners will be crucial to the funds success, Prime Minister Chan-o-cha reportedly told ACMECS leaders that Thailand was willing to contribute a substantial amount of seed money to kick-start it.
Under Thailand’s proposal the fund will be jointly managed by all five member countries, with government debt being sold via stocks and bonds to capitalise projects.
Citing an official from Thailand’s MFA, Arthayud Srisamoot, Reuters said one of the aims of the ACMECS Fund was to lessen reliance on funding from the likes of China, South Korea, Japan, and India.
According to Reuters China has committed to providing almost $12 billion in loans and grants to CLMVT countries, including a $5.5-billion railway linking Thailand’s EEC with southern China, via Lao PDR.
With a wariness of Chinese dependency now emerging and rising discontent in some quarters to China’s creeping expansionism, the ACMECS Fund reportedly received enthusiastic support from regional leaders, who hope to get it up and running by next year.
Feature video NBT World
- Development funding key focus of ACMECS leaders (The Nation)
- Thailand spearheads regional fund to cut reliance on big Asian economies (Reuters)
- Thailand Proposes New Fund for Southeast Asian Sub-Region (RFA)
He has spent extensive periods of time working in Africa and throughout Southeast Asia.
He has covered major world events including the 1991 pillage riots in Zaire, the 1994 Rwanda genocide, the 1999 East Timor independence unrest, the 2004 Asian tsunami, and the 2009, 2010 and 2014 Bangkok political protests.
In 1995 he was a Walkley Award finalist, the highest awards in Australian journalism, for his coverage of the 1995 Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) Ebola outbreak.
Prior to AEC News Today he was the deputy editor and Thailand and Greater Mekong Sub-region editor for The Establishment Post, predecessor of Asean Today.