two nations, Thailand and Sri Lanka, have enjoyed such a long
history of cordial friendship. Our history dates back a thousand
share similar values, culture, and civilisation. Geographically,
we may be kept apart on opposite rims of the Bay of Bengal, but,
culturally, history has shown that we have always been so near.
The flow of civilisation back and forth between Sri Lanka and
Siam, as Thailand was then called, throughout our thousand years
of history, is testimony of our deep-rooted relationship and understanding.
Many of the words in our respective languages, especially our
names, having derived through Buddhism from Pali and Sanskrit,
sound similar and have similar meanings in both our languages.
When the Thai pronounce the Singhalese names, because of the linguistic
similarity, it sounds so much like calling the names of our own
friends. And I trust the vice versa may be true in the case of
our Sri Lankan friends pronouncing Thai names. One distinct similar
feature of our languages, which are rooted from Pali-Sanskrit,
is that the words are often very long with many syllables, and
can be frightening to many of our Western friends who have to
be stammering to say them right.
I can proudly
say that the peoples of our two nations always feel the sense
of friendship and amity shared between us. Presently, with a lot
more platforms and cooperation fora for both our nations to work
even more closely with each other, we must find additional ways
to strengthen our collaboration. With a historical sense of friendship,
Thailand was proud to have been chosen as the venue for the Sri
Lankan peace talks. We were most eager to be of assistance to
contribute towards peace, harmony and prosperity in Sri Lanka.
I personally instructed all the authorities concerned to render
every possible means to facilitate and accommodate the logistic
arrangements of the peace talks when held in Thailand. We wish
you well in your endeavours and stand ready to be of help any
time whenever required.
cooperation within the framework of BIMST-EC, namely between Bangladesh,
India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand, is proving very beneficial.
The Ministerial meeting, held here last December, has paved the
way to many beneficial areas of cooperation between the five countries.
I look forward to the BIMST-EC Summit in Thailand early next year
with a high degree of anticipated accomplishment. With the political
will of the five leaders, our regional cooperation will undoubtedly
be much further strengthened.
last June in Chiang Mai, Thailand, at the Second Ministerial Meeting
of the Asia Cooperation Dialogue, or ACD, we were pleased to be
able to welcome Sri Lanka to join us as one of the four new members
of the ACD. The 22 members of the ACD, Sri Lanka included, are
ranging from the westernmost of Asia, or what the west call “the
Middle East”, such as Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman; South Asia,
such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka; Central Asia,
such as Kazakhstan; East Asia, such as China, Japan and South
Korea, and the 10 members of ASEAN representing Southeast Asia.
Thailand took the initiative on the idea of the Asia Cooperation
Dialogue, which was inaugurated in Cha-Am, Thailand, in June 2002,
with 18 members. We did so out of the conviction that in a world
where each continent has devised an instrument to pool its respective
potential for the well-being and prosperity of the people, Asia
could not afford to do without one. While there are the European
Union, the African Union, the NAFTA, and the Free Trade Agreement
of the Americas or FTAA, we in Asia lacked a continent-wide cooperation
to serve the interests of our region. The ACD will serve to bridge
that missing link.
The ACD is
intended to be an open, evolving, non-institutionalised, inclusive
and constructive process. Its strength is based on the rich diversity
of the countries in Asia. Its progress and its achievements are
based on the comfort level of all the members. So far, there are
17 ACD cooperation projects, such as energy security, poverty
alleviation, agriculture, SMEs cooperation, financial cooperation,
tourism, human resource development, and many more for the ACD
members to select to participate. In welcoming Sri Lanka as a
new member of the ACD, I wish to urge you to consider joining
as many of the 17 existing projects or even to initiate a new
project that would be mutually beneficial to Sri Lanka and other
ACD members. Project participation is on a voluntary basis. By
so doing, we can avoid conflict while creating strength out of
the rich diversity of our Asian nations.
ACD Ministerial Meeting last June also agreed to adopt the Chiang
Mai Declaration on the Asian Bond Market Development. The Declaration
provided political support to the Asian Bond Fund and the Asian
Bond Market. The philosophy behind the Asian Bond is basically
that of empowering the less well-off. Instead of depositing our
hard-earned reserves in the West and let them be used to create
more wealth for the West, it is high time that we in Asia had
an instrument to allow our own reserves to create our own wealth
in Asia. The Asian Bond will enable the surplus capital from one
Asian country to create wealth in another. With the establishment
of the Asian Bond Fund by the 11 Central Banks in Asia and the
Pacific on 2nd June 2003, the initial 1-billion-U.S.-dollar Asian
Bond Fund will serve as the demand side of the Asian Bond market.
As the ACD adopted the Chiang Mai Declaration supporting this
initial Asian Bond Fund, the Indian Government also announced
during the Second ACD Ministerial Meeting its readiness to contribute
another one billion U.S. dollars, either toward the enlargement
of the initial Asian Bond Fund or to set up the Asian Bond Fund,
Number 2. The Asian Bond and the Chiang Mai Declaration will help
create stable financial structures capable of stimulating both
Asian and global economic development. This financial instrument
will ensure that Asia achieves the level of economic growth and
employment that it is capable of attaining and intends to attain.
So, I do
hope that Sri Lanka’s participation in the ACD will bring many
benefits to the economic growth and development of the country.
As for our
bilateral cooperation, at this very same moment, the Thai Foreign
Minister and his Sri Lankan counterpart are also meeting elsewhere
in this hotel for the Thailand-Sri Lanka Joint Commission. I am
looking forward to hearing the fruitful outcomes of this Joint
of the BOI,
backgrounds, I am sure you will agree with me that there can be
a lot for our two countries to accomplish more than just maintaining
our long friendship. Through trade and business, I foresee a massive
potential that could lead to mutual benefits between our two countries,
especially between the private sectors. On our part, I am confident
to say that we are making a full recovery from the financial crisis
of 1997. We are currently enjoying a stable currency, with 5.3
percent economic growth last year and expecting 6 percent growth
this year despite the Iraq war and SARS. We were able to record
19 percent export growth for the first 2 quarters of this year,
and managed to pay back all of our IMF loans, as a consequence
of the 1997 crisis, on 31st July this year -- 2 years ahead of
schedule. All these indicators are ample proof that the “Dual
Track Policy” for economic recovery of the Thai Government has
been a success. Through this policy, I have started to lay down
solid foundations for both the grassroots economy and the traditional
export-led economy of Thailand. Now that both sectors of our economy
are getting stronger, Thailand is back on track to offer partnership
with our friends toward mutual interests and benefits.
I am very
pleased that my meeting with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe
earlier this afternoon resulted in agreement on a number of issues.
We have set a target of 1 billion U.S. dollars in our two-way
trade within the next 5 years. We have agreed on export credits
of 20 million U.S. dollars to facilitate Sri Lanka in importing
essential Thai products. Furthermore, we are looking into the
establishment of a joint investment fund to finance joint venture
projects between our private sectors.
tourism can also be another important area of cooperation. With
so much in common, both culturally and historically, rich with
both natural beauty and heritage, placed just opposite each other
on the same sea, and being close enough to each other, Thailand
and Sri Lanka could work out many joint tourist promotion endeavours.
More particularly, Sri Lanka and our famous island of Phuket,
with their similar geographical configuration, though different
in size and while lying almost directly opposite each other, can
both be dubbed the Twin Pearls of the Bay of Bengal and serve
as twin destinations. There are many exciting possibilities in
such a project.
two countries, we have the long history. We have the culture.
We have the friendship. We have the international cooperation
framework. We have the government support. And we have you --
the far-sighted business community of both countries -- to contribute
for the prosperous trade and economy of our respective nations.
Let us do it together.