Thailand offers a helping hand

National 3 minutes, 45 seconds

BRUNEI-MUARA

His Majesty and Thai Prime Minister discuss MoU on agriculture

THAILAND Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday bared the prospect of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on agriculture between Brunei and Thailand "because we feel that Thailand can contribute to Brunei's plan on achieving food security".

Thailand last year was a major food producer for rice, tapioca, sugar cane, durian, longan, mangosteen and pineapple, even earning the Kingdom the reputation of being the 13th largest food exporter in the world. It was also reported that the value of Thai agricultural and food exports account for 60 per cent of the country's total exports.

In an exclusive interview with The Brunei Times, Abhisit said he discussed several areas of cooperation during his meeting with His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam.

"We have the signing of the MoU on health cooperation, we're also working on one (MoU) on agriculture which was one subject that was brought up... We talked about the possibility of cooperation in the area of halal industry, energy, where PTT (Thailand's state-owned oil and gas conglomerate) has some plans for investment here," he said.

The Thai premier highlighted the prospect of the two countries becoming more active partners in development at the signing for an MoU on health cooperation at The Empire Hotel & Country Club yesterday.

In his remarks at an official luncheon hosted by the monarch earlier yesterday, Abhisit said that the signing of the MoU represents "just one such potential" for bilateral cooperation in areas of development.

The MoU outlined the main areas of cooperation to be the monitoring and control of infectious diseases, disease prevention, primary health care, development of health services, control of medicine and medical equipment, human resource development and trade and investment opportunities in the health sector.

Following the endorsement of the MoU, Prime Minister Abhisit capped his one-day visit to the Sultanate with a closed-door meeting with his delegation and the Thai media.

The Thai premier also proposed mutual efforts to expand Brunei's construction industry by increasing the already sizeable Thai presence in the nation's construction sector.

"We also would like to see Thai construction sector also doing some work here. We have five to six thousand Thai workers here, we believe that if we can encourage more G-to-G (government to government) arrangements in terms of Thai labour, (we can) facilitate the management of Thai labour here," he remarked.

"The relationship between the two countries has always been good and this visit is here to enhance that relationship and to explore some areas where we feel cooperation has potential and can be extended."

Abhisit departed for Thailand at 2.30pm to hold urgent talks with the "Red Shirts", supporters of the former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who have held massive protests in Bangkok demanding snap elections.

"As soon as I go back I will be going into second-round talks with the leaders of the protest. We hope to achieve an agreeable solution so we can move forward," he told The Brunei Times.

Abhisit has been residing in army barracks ever since the Red Shirts defaced his office compound with bottles of their own blood which they called the "sacrifice for democracy" after their call for elections were rejected.

"I'm encouraging them to come (participate in talks) and draw up a road map. And if we can do that then I think that we have a good chance of taking the country out of the crisis that has been going on for four years," he added, referring to the political turmoil that has followed Thaksin's departure from office.

The twice-elected Thaksin was ousted in a military coup in 2006 and later sentenced in absentia to two years jail for corruption. He fled Thailand shortly before his sentence was passed and now lives in exile in Dubai.

Abhisit came to power in December 2008 after the Constitutional Court found the ruling People Power Party (PPP), widely seen as a reincarnation of Thaksin's banned Thai Rak Thai party, guilty of electoral fraud.

Abhisit was able to form a new government without fresh elections after a few Thaksin loyalists joined his party, the Democrats.

Asked if he was optimistic of the outcome of the negotiations, the prime minister replied: "Well you should always have hope, and you should always do your best work towards a solution and I am determined to do that."

The Brunei Times