Mekong countries, Japan eye new development strategy beyond 2015

Bangkok Post
19 February 2015

The leaders of Japan and five Southeast Asian countries along the Mekong River plan to craft a new strategy in July for Tokyo to contribute to sustainable development of the Mekong region beyond 2015, a senior Japanese official said Thursday.

“The leaders of Japan and the Mekong states will assemble to draw up a new strategy that would succeed the ‘Tokyo Strategy 2012 for Mekong-Japan Cooperation’ for further development of Japan and the Mekong region as they are about to enter a new stage of cooperation,” Minoru Kiuchi, senior vice foreign minister, told a forum in Tokyo.

Mr Kiuchi was referring to the strategy the leaders are expected to adopt during a Japan-Mekong summit slated for July 4 in Tokyo ahead of the planned launch of a more integrated Asean Economic Community at the end of the year.

Thursday’s event, the fifth session of the Forum for the Promotion of Public-Private Cooperation in the Mekong Region, brought together government officials, businesspeople and experts from Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Japan.

A Thai delegate said the Association of Southeast Asian Nations hopes the strategy will include work plans for lower development gaps among Mekong states, a prerequisite for greater Asean integration, and for a more environment-friendly and higher quality of life.

Chutintorn Gongsakdi, director-general of the International Economic Affairs department at the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Bangkok, also voiced expectations of Japanese support in a joint Thai-Myanmar project to develop the Dawei Special Economic Zone in southern Myanmar on the Indian Ocean coast.

Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng (on stage) delivers an opening speech at the forum for the promotion of public-private cooperation in the Mekong region in Tokyo Feb 19. Japan will host the Japan-Mekong countries summit meeting in this year. (AFP photo)
“Southeast Asia is a backyard of Japan. We are not strangers to each other,” Mr Chutintorn told Kyodo News. “So it’s only logical that Japan plays an active role in projects like Dawei, but also others, in making a single production base in Asean, especially in the Mekong subregion.”

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