Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Thai FM pushes for road through Myanmar

Staff Correspondent

Foreign Minister of Thailand Kasit Priomya yesterday said Bangladesh-Myanmar road is "more viable" route of the proposed Asian Highways for connecting Thailand with western countries.

He said his country was ready to work with Bangladesh on repatriation of Rohingya refugees, a common problem for two countries, back to Myanmar.

Priomya, who came to Dhaka yesterday on a two-day official visit, said political change in the military-ruled Myanmar was "very much needed" for regional stability.

While talking to reporters at a joint-press briefing at the foreign ministry, he said Bangladesh and Thailand could easily be connected by road via Myanmar, subject to the approval of the three governments.

He said an option was there to stretch a road from India through a part Bangladesh and then back into India ending in southern China via Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. "But the option for a road from Chittagong to Myanmar and Thailand looks quite viable in terms of the international thought," he added.

The minister said changes in Myanmar would resolve the issues of internally displaced Myanmarese along the Bangladesh-Myanmar and Myanmar-Thailand borders.

"So changes in Myanmar are very much needed. It is not only a necessity for the security of Myanmar but also for all the neighbouring countries including Bangladesh and Thailand," Priomya said.

Speaking at the briefing, Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni said Thailand agreed to give on-arrival visas to Bangladeshi diplomats and government officials.

She hoped the on-arrival visas would be available for all Bangladeshis in future.

She said Bangkok extended support to Dhaka's initiative to set up the headquarters of Bimstec in the Bangladesh capital.

Dipu Moni and Kasit Priomya led their respective sides to the official talks at the foreign ministry. Top officials from the ministries concerned attended the meeting.

The issues that featured in the meeting include infrastructure development in Bangladesh, cooperation in energy sector, Bangladesh's inclusion in the Asian Highways, Bangladesh-Thailand road link through Myanmar, maritime port linkage between Bangladesh and Thailand, trade imbalance between the two countries, tourism and cultural exchange.

She said the Thai authorities have assured Bangladesh of employing Bangladeshi skilled labour and other professionals. "The Thai foreign minister sought cooperation in education sector, especially in the teaching profession. Thailand has demands for English teachers in different universities."

The two sides discussed cooperation in combating piracy and trafficking of small arms and drugs.

They also discussed cooperation in defence and intelligence information sharing.

Bangladesh and Thailand have a huge trade gap in favour of Thailand and both the countries agreed to remove the imbalance.

Bangladesh prefers increased export of its goods to Thailand and invited more investment. Bangladesh imports goods worth $500 million while exports goods worth only $24 million.

Dipu Moni said Bangladeshi pharmaceuticals have a good prospect in Thailand since the country needs more medicine.

On his arrival, Priomya held a meeting with Communications Minister Syed Abul Hossain at the secretariat.

The Thai minister is scheduled to call on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. He will visit a Buddhist temple at Kamalapur to distribute rice at an orphanage before departing today.

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