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Stabroek News

Thailand to deepen ties with Jamaica
published: Sunday | September 3, 2006


- Winston Sill/Freelance Photographer
Foreign Affairs Minister for Thailand, Dr. Kantathi Suphamongkhon (left), is in a good mood as he gets to know Honarary Consul-General, Thalia Lyn, and Opposition Leader, Bruce Golding, during his brief visit to the island last week.

Barbara Ellington, Lifestyle Editor

Thailand's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Kantathi Suphamongkhon, and the Ambassador-designate Virasakdi, headed a delegation to Jamaica last week. During their stay, they held talks with Foreign Affairs Minister, Anthony Hylton, and discussed several areas of future cooperation. The Sunday Gleaner spoke with Ambassador Virasakdi, who outlined a number of the subjects covered. The ambassador has given diplomatic service for 32 years in Burma, Canada, France, Switzerland and Washington D.C.

Virasakdi's goals for his tour of duty in the region are centred around executing the objectives of his Foreign Affairs Minister. These include technical cooperation in shrimp farming, which is done successfully in Thailand and in which there are local interests.

"Another area of cooperation is with HIV/AIDS prevention. We have successfully kept the spread of the pandemic at manageable levels and part of the reason is that we developed an inexpensive cocktail of drugs to treat it. We are willing to share in this area as well as offer the drug for sale here," he said.

Community Development

Mr. Hylton expressed interest in community development as Jamaica continues the fight in poverty alleviation. Thailand's Prime Minister, Dr. Thaksin Shinawatra, successfully initiated a programme of economic development at the grassroots level, in which all small villages received Baht$25,000 for community development.

He further mandated that the funds and projects selected be managed by a committee, comprising 50 per cent women. The Government would in turn assist with marketing the craft and other goods produced. The initiative was just one facet of the Prime Minister's populist policies that almost guarantees him another term in office when next elections are held. Earlier this year, there were widespread demonstrations by persons opposed to Dr. Thaksin.

"The Queen's project was also implemented to assist farmers, especially women, to generate harvest in the off-seasons and lift the standard of living in rural areas. We are trying to close the poverty gaps," Virasakdi said.

Caribbean Gateway

But Foreign Affairs Minister Dr. Kantathi has agreed in principle that Jamaica should become the Caribbean's gateway to Thailand, and Thailand should do the same for Jamaica among the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries. He said Jamaica should consider using Thailand as its diplomatic hub in the region as it is located in the heart of South East Asia, the seat of the United Nations regional headquarters and has a convenient modern airport.

"We have a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of US$800 billion and a population of 500 million among 10 nations," Virasakdi said. So, economic cooperation between the countries makes sense, he added. This could be translated into working with the Jamaican private sector to use the island's port facilities as a regional distribution centre for large warehouse storage, thus lessening transport costs for all concerned.

Tourism

Another area of cooperation that was discussed is tourism, from which both countries earn their major revenue. In this regard, training opportunities could be explored and the centuries-old Thai massage concept could be introduced to Jamaica. The introduction of Thai fast food to Jamaica was also discussed.

Foreign Affairs Minister Dr. Kantathi has agreed in principle that Jamaica should become the Caribbean's gateway to Thailand, and Thailand should do the same for Jamaica among the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries.

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