In an opinion piece published in The Nation newspaper in June this year, the author, Kavi Chongkittavorn, was full of praise for the efforts of the prime minister, Prayut Chan-ocha, in attempting to raise the quality bar when it comes to Thailand’s involvement within the Asean Economic Community (AEC), but scathing of the various arms of government and agencies in their failure to, as the writer put it, ‘come together and execute the necessary steps and measures to make Thailand the centre of the [AEC].’
As Khun Kavi noted, ‘No Thai government in recent memory has invested so much energy and money into Asean-related projects as the current administration.’ This was simply because the current prime minister ‘understands very well the importance of Thailand’s integration with Asean and its implications for the future and regional leadership, not to mention his own legacy.’
Sadly for the country, Khun Kavi claimed Thailand had been ill-prepared for the advent of the AEC at the end of 2015 despite spending around eight billion baht in the period between 2013 and 2015 to increase public awareness about the launch of the AEC.
The claim is that ‘Government agencies and their officials are still working in silos without proper coordination.’ This is despite the prime minister giving ‘top priority to Asean…’
As The Nation article noted, ‘Prayut…read all the documents, asked good questions and proposed some good ideas to his Asean colleagues, which included setting up a cybersecurity centre, better border management and jointly working together for sustainable development.’
Unfortunately, for some strange reason, ‘during Cabinet and Asean-related meetings at Government House, [Prayut}…did not push hard and go after all the deficiencies and loopholes that have made his Asean dream a perpetual procrastination.’
The author suggested the government has become sidetracked by such new schemes as the Eastern Economic Corridor and the Thailand 4.0 initiatives. These, he says, ‘have become the new darlings, superseding various special border economic zones and other connectivity initiatives…’
The author also wrote that Thailand needs to, ‘…follow the 500 plus action plans in the “Asean Vision 2025: Forging Ahead” because they are practical and deliverable. These plans were well thought out by all Asean members.’
Unfortunately, these plans might have been well thought out, but in Thailand ‘all the top economic policymakers seldom paid attention to the Asean vision, otherwise Thailand’s integration would have made much more progress. Malaysia, Vietnam and Cambodia, with less hype and financial backing from their governments, have scored higher in their Asean schemes.’
Thailand will chair Asean in 2019.