Thailand to support Bangladesh for Mekong-Ganga Cooperation membership, pledges more funds for Rohingyas

Thailand, a key member of the grouping of Southeast Asian countries, has promised Bangladesh to support its bid to be a member of the Mekong-Ganga Cooperation or MGC forum as well as ASEAN Sectoral Partnership.

Published : 15 March 2018, 05:14 PM
Updated : 15 March 2018, 05:14 PM

Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has also promised more funds for the humanitarian assistance of the Rohingya people who have taken shelter in Bangladesh from Myanmar.

“Bangladesh and Thailand are long-standing friends and connected by the Bay of Bengal and maritime routes. We should intensify cooperation in trade, investment and regional connectivity”, the prime minister was quoted as saying during a meeting with Bangladesh Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali.

The foreign ministry said during the meeting on Thursday in Bangkok, Chan-o-cha pledged his “full support” to strengthen relations with Bangladesh.

He particularly mentioned his support for Bangladesh’s bid for membership in MGC forum and the ASEAN Sectoral Partnership.

He termed Bangladesh a ‘gateway and connectivity hub’ between South Asia and South East Asia, and proposed that Bangladesh’s ‘Look East Policy’ and Thailand’s ‘Look West Policy’ “may be synchronised to create new trade and economic connectivity corridors”.

He also offered to establish coastal shipping connectivity between Thailand’s Ranong Port and Chittagong Port.

The Mekong-Ganga Cooperation or MGC is an initiative by six countries – India and five ASEAN countries, namely Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam – for cooperation in tourism, culture, education, as well as transport and communications.

It was launched in 2000 at Vientiane, Lao PDR.

Both the Ganga and the Mekong are civilisational rivers, and the MGC initiative aims to facilitate closer contacts among the people inhabiting these two major river basins.

The MGC is also indicative of the cultural and commercial linkages among the member countries of the MGC down the centuries.

Thailand’s strategic location makes it an investors’ gateway to Asia.

It is at the centre of most ASEAN countries, including Myanmar on the west, Cambodia and Lao PDR on the east, and Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore on the south.

The prime minister also proposed creation of institutional framework with Bangladesh on security cooperation to prevent transnational crimes in the region.

He congratulated Bangladesh on assuming Chairmanship of the OIC and said he looked forward to working closely with Bangladesh as an OIC observer.

Mahmood Ali thanked him for all of his support pledges and assured him of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s full cooperation in advancing Bangla-Thai trade, economic and connectivity cooperation.

He offered Thailand a dedicated economic zone for its investors and all-out support to Thai companies that have invested in Bangladesh.

To facilitate the bilateral trade, Ali reiterated Bangladesh’s request for duty and quota-free access of 36 items from Bangladesh to the Thai market.

He invited more Thai investment in Bangladesh, particularly in tourism and agriculture.

He updated the prime minister about the Rohingya crisis and sought Thailand’s engagement with Myanmar for sustainable return of the forcibly displaced Myanmar citizens.

He also thanked him for Thailand’s humanitarian assistance to the tune of $40,000 through UNHCR for the Rohingyas and Thailand’s position in the international forum on this issue.

Chan-o-cha committed further support of $100,000 through UNHCR and wished success of the repatriation process agreed between Bangladesh and Myanmar, the foreign ministry said.

Ali is in now Bangkok now on a two-day visit at the invitation of his Thai counterpart Don Pramudwinai to inaugurate the ‘Bangabandhu Chair’ at Thailand’s leading technology institute, the Asian Institute of Technology.

State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid is accompanying him.

The foreign minister has also held bilateral talks with Pramudwinai. Bangladesh Ambassador to Thailand Saida Muna Tasneem was with him at the meeting.