Recently, Dr. Thaksin Shinawatra gave a speech at the 11th Asia Cooperation Dialogue Ministerial Meeting in Tajikistan.
The Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) was inaugurated in June 2002 in Thailand , where 18 Asian Foreign Ministers met together for the first time. The ACD is a continent-wide forum, the first of its kind in Asia . More specifically, the ACD aims to constitute the missing link in Asia by incorporating every Asian country and building an Asian Community without duplicating other organizations or creating a bloc against others. A key principle is to consolidate Asian strengths and fortify Asia’s competitiveness by maximizing on the diversity and rich resources evident in Asia . The core values of the ACD are informal, non-institutionalized, and evolving whilst focusing on positive thinking and comfort level.
Your Excellency Mr. Emomalii Rahmon, President of the Republic of Tajikistan,
Your Excellency Mr. Hamrokhon Zarifi, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Tajikistan,
It is truly a privilege for me to be invited to speak at this 11th Ministerial Meeting of the Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD), held for the first time in the Republic of Tajikistan, a country of rich historical and cultural heritage. I wish to express my heartfelt appreciation to the Government of Tajikistan for according me this honour.
This visit to Dushanbe brings back many old memories since Tajikistan was the last country that I made an official visit as Prime Minister on 9 September 2006. Only 10 days later, a coup d’etat was staged at home while I was away on my official duty.
It is particularly meaningful to me to be given this opportunity since it was at my seaside residence in Cha-am, Thailand that the ACD first came into being back in June 2002. On that occasion, there were 18 founding countries altogether, which made my dining room quite cramped, but also very warm with the solidarity of our convictions.
Looking back to those early days over a decade ago, I still recall the initial challenges we faced in establishing this region-wide cooperation, which was unprecedented at that time. While other continents of the world had a regional grouping encompassing all the countries in the region, this was a missing link as far as Asia was concerned. But with all of the ASEAN countries as the base, we were able to draw upon the support of our friends in East Asia, South Asia and the Middle East to forge a region-wide strategic partnership spanning all corners of the continent, from North to South, and from East to West.
And so, the ACD was born.
Since those eventful days, I am pleased to say that our organization has steadily gathered momentum. I am gratified to see that since 2002, our membership has almost doubled to 32 countries at present, with additional members from the Middle East and South Asia in particular. Certainly, we are well on the way to becoming a continent-wide grouping.
In my opening statement at the Inaugural Meeting of the Asia Cooperation Dialogue, I presented my vision of why a grouping such as the ACD is so essential for our region. I believe that it is worth repeating today because the essence of the message remains the same, if not even more so.
Asia today is home to over 4 billion people, accounting for almost 60 percent of the world’s population, and representing a huge market and a rich pool of human resources.
It is the world’s largest and most diverse continent, comprising 30 percent of the earth’s land area, and rich in natural resources.
Asia remains the world’s fastest growing economic region and will continue to be the driver of global growth during the decades ahead. Asia’s proportion in world exports has also risen over the past ten years, with our region now accounting for over 30 percent of world trade.
When the ACD first originated, Asia’s total combined international reserves amounted to over one trillion U.S. dollars, representing over half of the world’s foreign exchange reserves. Today, the percentage is even greater with Asian reserves multiplying at an astounding level.
Not only is Asia rich in economic terms, but also in religious and cultural dimensions as well. Asia is, of course, the birthplace of most of the world’s major religions, including Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism, and others. Many of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and the Modern World are located in Asia. And Asia was the cradle of the world’s earliest civilizations, dating back thousands of years.
Against this backdrop of seeming abundance and wealth, it was disconcerting to me that, in much of Asia, our peoples still remain mired in poverty. It was perturbing to me that great potentials exist in our region and yet they remained largely untapped. And it was of great concern to me that despite our age-old shared heritage, the countries of Asia continue to compete with one another, and are often embroiled in conflict, rather than joining hands to channel our strengths into cooperative endeavours.
For this reason, I saw the need for a region-wide grouping such as the ACD, which would be both a forum for cooperation as well as for dialogue. It would be a vehicle for us to turn our diversity and vast potential into mutual benefits. And it would be an avenue for us to pool our individual strengths together to make a stronger Asia that would be a better partner, not only for our region, but for the rest of the world.
Excellencies, I must admit to feeling a sense of pride in seeing the ACD grow and expand its areas of cooperation during the six years that I served as Prime Minister of Thailand. However, since I left office in 2006, I do detect some decline in interest, with only two new members admitted since then. Therefore, my main purpose today is to appeal to you all — to help revitalize the ACD, and inject new life and dynamism into our grouping.
During this time when many other regions of the world are encountering economic and financial difficulties, Asia has been a bastion of strength and stability, with the fastest growing economies in the world mainly coming from Asia. But while the region is generally doing well, there is so much more that we can do together, if we pool our inner strengths and comparative advantages. We are already major producers of goods for the rest of the world, but we are still lagging behind when it comes to value creation and adding value to our products. It is, therefore, high time that we put our conflicts and rivalry aside, and channel our energies instead into close cooperation under the ACD, as a driver towards regional peace, prosperity and stability.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Over 2,000 years ago, some of our ancestors and ancient traders travelled along the famous Silk Road. This historic road extended almost 8,000 kilometres from China through Asia, including parts of Tajikistan, to the Middle East, the Mediterranean, Europe and Africa. This network of interlinking trade routes played a highly significant role in the exchange of goods, knowledge and technologies, as well as the propagation of religions, philosophies and cultures.
Today, with all the talk about regional connectivity, we envisage a New Silk Road that will intricately link ACD Member Countries with one another and with other regions through an extensive network of roads, railways, sea lanes and air routes. This is the hardware.
Equally important, however, is the software in the form of the longstanding cultural, religious and historical heritage, which can weave the countries of Asia together into a single priceless, exquisite and durable fabric.
I invite you all to join me in taking a highly-rewarding journey along this New Silk Road, which will link our common destinies together along the path towards greater peace and prosperity.
Thank you for your attention.
For more information about Thaksin, click HERE.