Inaugural Address by His Excellency Mr. Samak Sundaravej, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand

at The Sixty-fourth Session of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP)
Monday 28 April 2008
United Nations Conference Centre, Bangkok, Thailand

Mr. Chairman,
Madam Executive Secretary,
Excellencies,
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the Government and people of the Kingdom of Thailand, I wish to extend a warm welcome to all distinguished delegates and participants to this Sixty-fourth Session of ESCAP in Bangkok.

I am pleased to note that this year marks the return of the Commission Session to its headquarters in Thailand after two consecutive sessions abroad, in Jakarta and Almaty.

The theme of this year’s session, “Energy Security and Sustainable Development”, is appropriate and timely. Today’s headlines overwhelm us with news of rising oil prices which have affected consumers worldwide, energy scarcity, climate change, environmental degradation, bio-diversity loss, economic slowdown, and skyrocketing food prices. These issues adversely affect economic and social development and, thus, the well-being of our people. These issues are important for all our countries, as they are for Thailand. Addressing the issue of food prices, along with energy security, is now on our national agenda.

I am pleased to confirm that Thailand is now back on track and moving forward. We are taking steps to revitalise our economy with people at the centre of our agenda. With our open and free-market economy, Thailand will continue to build on our strong fundamentals and actively engage with regional and global economies. At the same time, to make our progress sustainable, we need to address economic and social inequality and lack of opportunity. Thailand’s policies work to generate income and create opportunities for the agricultural and self-employed sectors. Our goal is people empowerment.

Mr. Chairman,

Our region is home to some 600 million poor people. When the environment is destroyed, the region is more prone to natural disasters and food security increasingly becomes an issue. We need to pay more attention to environmental sustainability and use natural resources wisely, while maintaining sound economic growth. We should work to safeguard the region’s great wealth of biodiversity that is being threatened, and include this in our national development plans.

At the same time, sustainable development of the region also requires that we devote attention to our energy resources. Our region urgently and seriously needs to consider energy management reform, promotion of cooperation in the energy sector, efficient energy usage, clean energy promotion, and development of alternative and renewable energy. We can cooperate on development of infrastructure for hydro-electricity production and through intra-regional trading in natural gas. Another alternative source of energy in the spotlight is nuclear energy. Taking into account that countries in the region have diverse capacities and expertise on energy, enhanced energy cooperation would bring us closer to the goal of energy security for all.

Mr. Chairman,

To address development challenges, Thailand fully supports South-South partnerships and those between developed and developing countries involving technology transfer, as well as cooperation with relevant international organisations and through various regional frameworks. ESCAP can play a complementary yet valuable role as a depository of best practices and know-how for the greater benefit of the peoples of Asia and the Pacific.

Together, we can use human resource development as the key to pursuing economic and social development. For Thailand, this has been the main focus of the development cooperation extended to other developing countries within the region and beyond. We are also the regional base for HRD through hosting institutions such as the Mekong Institute and the International Institute for Trade and Development. Related to HRD is narrowing the digital divide, which has been reflected in the agenda of the Twelfth Session of UNCTAD in Ghana.

Physical communications among people are also important to development. Thailand has placed importance on the development of infrastructure, in particular roads and transport linkages. We have invested a lot in road construction in neighbouring countries. During the recent GMS Summit, Thailand proposed a Tourism Route Initiative to complement the existing Economic Corridors and other related cooperation frameworks. The proposed route would connect major cities and tourist destinations across the sub-region, especially World Heritage sites. It would include the ancient Lanna city of Chiang Rai in Thailand, the multicultural city of Jinghong in the People’s Republic of China, the historic town of Luang Prabang and Vat Phou and associated ancient settlements in the Lao PDR, to ancient Hoi An and spectacular Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, and Angkor Wat in Cambodia. It would promote economic activities, create local opportunities, and bridge the sub-region with China, India, and beyond.

My recent discussions with ASEAN colleagues reveal that there is a common will to make greater regional connectivity among people through road and rail links a reality. Support from regional friends in linking the sub-regional and regional transport networks will be important. The initiatives of ESCAP on Asian Highways and Railways will complete the picture and help us achieve regional connectivity.

Mr. Chairman,

Sustainable development requires our strong commitment. Thailand highly appreciates the role of ESCAP in supporting regional collaboration and will continue to be a dynamic partner of ESCAP and its member countries. I have also learnt with pleasure that this Commission Session has considered the revitalisation of the Commission’s work, in particular, structural review. I would like to express my appreciation to Madam Executive Secretary for her strong determination to make the Commission more relevant to region’s rapidly changing environment and more responsive to the needs of its members. I am confident that a meaningful and effective outcome will be achieved.

On this note, allow me to extend my best wishes for a successful conclusion of the Commission Session.

Mr. Chairman,
Madam Executive Secretary,
Excellencies,
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I now have the honour to declare open the Sixty-fourth Session of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.

Thank you.