The Thai Prime Minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, has expressed his satisfaction at Vietnam-Thailand relations and stressed good prospects for cooperation among ASEAN.

“I am very pleased with the overall bilateral relations, as it has been progressing and expanding well in all fields, encompassing political and security, trade and investment, social and economic development, technical cooperation”, PM Abhisit said in an interview granted to the Vietnam News Agency’s Bangkok correspondent prior to his trip to Vietnam to attend the 17 th ASEAN Summit and related meetings on Oct. 28-30.

“Thailand and Vietnam are two of the largest economies in mainland Southeast Asia. Therefore, we could serve as growth catalysts to the region and help stimulate development in our neighbouring countries,” he said, adding Thailand looks forward to enhancing closer cooperation with Vietnam in this regard.

He quoted statistics figures that in the first six months of 2010 bilateral trade increased by 28.52 percent compared to that of the same period in 2009.

“Indeed, Vietnam has made remarkable economic achievement. Thailand is also pleased that her investment and development cooperation have played a part in Vietnam’s development success, as Thailand is the 10th main investor in Vietnam with about 5.7 billion USD accumulated investment value from 1988 to 2009,” Abhisit said.

He stressed the strategic partnership as well as cooperation between Thailand and Vietnam within various frameworks of ASEAN will also serve as their common resource in tackling the many challenges caused by globalisation and changing geopolitical landscape.

The Thai PM went on to say that “Closer cooperation will also generate wider benefits to both Mekong Sub-region as well as ASEAN at large. Thailand reiterates its support for Vietnam as the ASEAN representative at the G20 next month.”

Abhisit affirmed that prospects of bilateral cooperation are very promising saying that several meetings have been planned for 2011, all of which will serve as a driving force in bilateral cooperation, while people-to-people connectivity is vital and fundamental to an amicable and long-lasting relationship.

He congratulated Vietnam on the 1000th Anniversary of the establishment of Hanoi City and also on the recognition of Thang Long Royal Citadel as the World Heritage by UNESCO.

Discussing cooperation within the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations, the Thai PM said the ASEAN region is one of great potential and the potential would be further strengthened by its extra-regional connections, quoting estimations that by 2015, the population will reach 625 million and the GDP 2.69 trillion USD.

“Realising the ASEAN Community is no easy task, but despite these challenges, ASEAN has significantly advanced in its community-building agenda and there have been many concrete developments. So for ASEAN, the key challenge is to stay the course in community-building as a whole,” he said.

According to the Thai PM, in recent years, there has been a growing interest in the discussion on regional cooperation through a new regional architecture in East Asia and Asia-Pacific. Such interest is driven by the fact that the world’s economic centre is shifting from the Atlantic to the Pacific with East Asia as a hub. Regional integration in East Asia is, therefore, in a paramount interest not only to countries in East Asia, but also to the rest of the world.

“So for ASEAN, we stress our determination to maintain centrality in current ASEAN-led mechanisms and in the emerging regional architecture. ASEAN agreed to adopt a two-prong approach with priority given to the acceleration of ASEAN integration and community building while intensifying ASEAN external relations with its dialogue partners. ASEAN also agreed that any new regional framework or process should be complementary to and built upon existing regional mechanisms and respect the principle of ASEAN centrality,” he said.

He stressed that Thailand, like other ASEAN Member States, recognises and supports the mutually reinforcing roles of the existing regional mechanisms such as ASEAN+1, ASEAN+3, East Asia Summit (EAS), ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), Trilateral Cooperation and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), which would help promote East Asian cooperation and integration.

According to Abhisit, each mechanism has its own value and distinctive roles that have contributed so far to peace, stability and prosperity in the region.

“As we are gearing up towards the realisation of the ASEAN Community in 2015, our economic integration has advanced and become relatively strong. ASEAN will continue to do its job to ensure the relevancy of the existing mechanisms as well as further promote regional economic integration. I am certain that ASEAN centrality remains indispensable in future regional integration process,” said the Thai PM./.