ASEAN is a part of Thailand’s national identity

TGVN. Thailand has attached great importance to enhancing cooperation within ASEAN frameworks to build trust and confidence among ASEAN member states, as well as to promote peace, stability and prosperity in the region.
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SEAN+3 leaders attending the 22nd ASEAN Plus Three Summit in Bangkok, Thailand in November 2019. (Photo: Bangkok Post)

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Vietnam’s membership in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or what we all widely known as ASEAN. While it has been more than 50 years for Thailand in being a part of ASEAN, I believe it is safe to say that ASEAN has become one of the most important aspects in Vietnam’s foreign policy, as well as in Thailand and all ASEAN members states.

In the midst of the Cold War, when tensions in our region still reigned high, there was an immediate need to seek an enduring solution for peace in Southeast Asia. This was the motivation to band our efforts together and form a mechanism of cooperation that would eradicate turmoil and distrust. Thus, ASEAN was born in August 1967.

Thailand has played an active role in ASEAN from the very beginning. As one of the founding members, ASEAN has been and will continue to be the main pillars and the cornerstone of Thai foreign policy. One can even say that it is a part of our national identity. Dr. Thanat Khoman’s quote at the establishment of ASEAN on 8 August 1967 has clearly envisioned the role of ASEAN in Thailand’s foreign policy since the beginning - “What we have decided today is only a small beginning of what we hope will be a long and continuous sequence of accomplishments of which we ourselves, those who will join us later and the generations to come, can be proud.”

Since then, Thailand has attached great importance to enhancing cooperation within ASEAN frameworks to build trust and confidence among ASEAN member states, as well as to promote peace, stability and prosperity in the region. We spare no efforts in the ASEAN community‐building process. From Thailand’s ASEAN Chairmanship last year of “Advancing Partnership for Sustainability,” we pushed forward what ASEAN could benefit us in all aspects, from sustainable development, connectivity, free trade facilitation, to maritime cooperation, military medicine, and cyber-security.

ASEAN has come a long way. Gradually, over the last 53 years, ASEAN has been a platform for its members to foster friendship, accelerate economic integration and tackle common challenges. In 2020, the expectation for ASEAN to be a peaceful, stable and prosperous community for its members and peoples has never been higher. With the spread of COVID-19 pandemic that came and disrupted our region’s and the world’s development and growth, it is also an opportunity for us to be more united and strengthen our resolve for current and future challenges.

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Ambassador of Thailand to Vietnam Tanee Sangrat.

Vietnam’s priorities in her ASEAN Chairman 2020, especially on strengthening ASEAN and solidarity, and increasing ASEAN’s institutional capacity and effectiveness, have been right to the point even before the pandemic and the need for more cooperation in our region began. Effective management of ASEAN’s opportunities and challenges will facilitate the harmonization of national trade and international rules and regulations, further advance common regional and traditional cultures, and help control and prevent the current and future communicable diseases.

COVID-19, and any other future pandemics, have enlightened us that what happens in the world today is much more than a public health crisis. Regional and collective efforts are the only way to overcome this cross-border challenge. We will need “cohesive and responsive” ASEAN that comes together to speed up the post-COVID-19 economic recovery and seizes the opportunity of being one of the largest markets in the world by accelerating intra-ASEAN trade and investment. We will need ASEAN to further its cooperation with major powers and dialogue partners, with regional and global organizations. By furthering this cooperation, ASEAN could then strengthen its centrality.

There is no denying that more work still needs to be done to promote and strengthen ASEAN identity, unity, and its management mechanism. Thailand recognizes the importance of building the Community sustainably in all aspects, especially the ones that involve people’s well-being and higher standard of living. I am of the view that we have to prepare the region for much more inclusive growth via both industries and businesses of the future, those that utilize advanced technology and innovation, as well as those that revolutionize traditional agricultural and service sectors that use smart technology and know-how.

By employing these approaches, environmental protection and sustainable development can go hand in hand within our region, and by committing to working closely together, I believe that we will achieve a truly integrated, more balanced, people-centered Community in the near future.

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Tanee Sangrat
Ambassador of Thailand to Vietnam