Thailand’s Vision of Connectivity

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra highlighted Thailand’s thoughts on connectivity with participants in the World Economic Forum on East Asia, held in Bangkok on 30 May- 1 June 2012.

She pointed out that the future of East Asia will depend more and more on connectivity, and to address these challenges and to take advantage of the opportunities, East Asia must continue to promote regional cooperation and integration.

The Prime Minister addressed three aspects of connectivity. The first aspect involves physical connectivity. East Asia is currently well connected through the North-South, East-West, and Southern Economic Corridors, all of which pass through Thailand. However, she stressed the need to support new initiatives like the Dawei deep-seaport, on which Thailand is now working closely with Myanmar to develop. Once Dawei is linked to Bangkok and the Laem Chabang deep-seaport, the region will have a “land bridge” linking the Andaman Sea to the Gulf of Thailand.

After 17 years of focusing on road building, another key project is the building of train links in the Mekong region. Some of the key projects include the Singapore-Kunming Railway Link and the new high-speed train links connecting northeastern Thailand to Laos and southern China.

Second, the Prime Minister emphasized the reinforcing of non-physical aspects of connectivity. In addition to investment in infrastructure, it is also important to ensure that goods and people can move freely across borders. Therefore, laws and regulations need to be put in place. That is why the cross-border transport agreement among GMS countries needs to be finalized. This will reduce time and costs at borders, transforming the transport corridor into an efficient economic corridor.

At the same time, she said, the East Asian region needs to be protected from cross-border problems. In particular, connectivity must not be abused to pursue illegal cross-border activities. These include transnational crimes and drug trafficking.

The Prime Minister raised the development of connectivity beyond ASEAN and East Asia as the third aspect. Looking ahead, she stressed the need to enhance connectivity further between ASEAN and other countries in East Asia. There are growing trade and investment links between East Asia and the rest of the world, including South Asia, the Middle East, and the Americas.

She explained that it is only a matter of time before people need to develop connectivity beyond East Asia. In fact, some cooperation frameworks involving partners beyond East Asia are already exploring connectivity, so the countries involved need to ensure synergies among such frameworks.

The Prime Minister added that in order to be able to support regional connectivity and reinforce community-building in ASEAN and East Asia, people in this region need to make their foundations at home even stronger, so that they would achieve a future of shared growth, prosperity, and greater connectivity in East Asia.