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Speeches at the Plenary Session by Surakiart Sathirathai, Former Vice Prime Minister and former Foreign Minister of Thailand


Surakiart Sathirathai

Former Vice Prime Minister and former Foreign Minister of Thailand


Excellency Mr. Wang Yang, Member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and Secretary of the CPC Guangdong Provincial Committee,

Excellency Mr. Han Qide, Vice Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress and President of the CPAPD,

Excellency Liu Jingqin, Vice President of the CPAPD and former Vice Minister of the International Deportment of the Central Committee of the CPC,

Excellency Mr. Uong Huot, Former Prime Minister of Cambodia,

Excellencies Distinguished Speakers to the Conference,  

Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is indeed my great honor to be invited to speak at the Conference on Sustainable Peace for a Sustainable Future to commemorate the International Peace Day and China-Southeast Asia Peace and Development Forum in Shenzhen China today.

I would like to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt appreciation to CPAPD for inviting me and has extended a very warm welcome and unsurpassed hospitality. I also would like to congratulate CPAPD and H.E. Wang Yang for successfully organizing this very important conference whose topic is very timely indeed.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

In the past decade or so, we have witnessed the change in international political and economic strategic landscape with our region, Asia, playing a key role at the center of such change. Economic figures of growth in China, India and many countries in Southeast, South and Central Asia have led to a reference to our region as “Asia Rising”. Economic and political strategies of many countries have reinforced the reality of the reference. The two ocean strategy, the connectivity strategy with Southeast and South Asia and the Pan Beibu Gulf cooperation of China, the new silk road of oil and gas from India to Europe, the Islamic corridor, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation which is seen to be “NATO of the East” and the emphasis of many countries in Asia on South-South cooperation are examples of strategies adding to “Asia rising”.  Furthermore, the mushrooming and intensifying of regional and sub-regional organisations and integration has added to the change in strategic landscape. The  Asia Cooperation Dialogue or ACD consists of 31 Asian countries which has launched the Asia Bond Market, the Gulf Cooperation Council or GCC of the Middle East, the Central Asia cooperative framework, The South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation or the SAARC of South Asia, The ASEAN Community of 10 countries in South-East Asia with almost 600 million people becoming one market in 2015, The ASEAN + 3’s Reserve Pooling of US$240 billion, the Boao Forum for Asia, the East Asia Summit and the emerging economies of Mekong Basin countries namely Myanmar, Thailand, Lao PDR, Vietnam and Cambodia; and the emergence of strategic partnership between ASEAN and China all of which have created a new strategic landscape in Asia and have provided opportunity for countries in Asia to work together within Asia and with friends from other regions.

However, Rising Asia can not be sustained if peace does not prevail in Asia. Nor can Asia be the engine of growth to the world in the midst of European economic crisis. Peace or at least the absence of serious conflicts and tension is required for Asia to continue to grow for the benefit of Asians and the world in the next decade. Unfortunately, we have seen pockets of problems in many parts of Asia, both within a society and across countries. Problems range from ethnic, religious, political, economic to territorial conflicts. Societies or countries which used to communicate with one another can not do so when tension arises and the communication is subject to politicized public scrutiny and nationalistic pressure in each country. The violence in the three Southernmost provinces in the Southern part of Thailand, conflicts in Nepal, Sri Lanka, tension arising from overlapping territorial claims between Thailand and Cambodia both land and in the Gulf of Thailand, Territorial claims among claimants in the South China Sea, and claims of the islands between Japan and South Korea and between Japan and China are clear examples of conflicts and tension leading to difficulty in having a dialogue for a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

On the tension which arises out of the conflict from territorial claims, I personally propose that in case where there is much economic interest in the overlapping claims area, the world wide precedents should be applied, i.e. to turn the conflict into cooperation. By this I refer to the arrangement where parties to the conflict agree to work together on developing the overlapping claims area jointly, called Joint Development Area. While technical people and international lawyers will work together to negotiate the land or sea boundary into the years in the future,  the arrangement where profit and cost are to be shared can be discussed and agreed, having no prejudice to the ongoing negotiation on boundary delimitation. For example, Thailand and Malaysia agreed on Joint Development Area for the overlapping claims in the Gulf of Thailand since 1979. Until at present the sea boundary delimitation has not finished. There is no tension on territorial negotiation since both sides are satisfied with profit sharing of oil and gas for the benefits of both countries. This example of turning the conflict into cooperation is perhaps something to which we in Asia should pay serious attention in order that we can live with conflict, so that conflicts will not be an obstacle for us to work together for the benefit of our countries and our children for the generations to come.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

If there is an emergence of views that conflict avoidance can be conceived and agreed and that when conflicts arise, there are ways to achieve resolution, the question is how can a process to have a dialogue for peaceful resolution be initiated.  Often times we found that possible solution to the problem exists, but the process to talk, to negotiate in order to reach the solution faces obstacles.  There is a need for a mechanism and expertise to create a process to reduce tension, to create a peace dialogue or to facilitate the dialogue or to be a pathfinder for solution. For me, Asia is a triangular society. We may need to ask the third person to probe another party to the conflict on our behalf. The other party to the conflict may need someone whom we trust to probe what would be our response to a certain proposal. The key is, this whole process has to be conducted quietly, basing on respect and consent of each side to the conflict, and has to be conducted impartially. The Go-Between person has to earn respect and trust, and comfort level from parties to the conflict and is not a part of  the conflict itself.

Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

Based on the fact that there are pockets of problems in Asia that needs to be handled with care, and that Asia has a unique and deep rooted culture of how to create a peace dialogue, the Asian Peace and Reconciliation Council (APRC) was established in Bangkok on the 5th of September 2012. The APRC is unique due to its three characteristics. First, it consists of Founding members who are now Council Members who can offer a wealth of knowledge, experiences, and understanding of bureaucracy, social and political structure and realities, interstate relations, peace building, the administration of government and international relations, peace building and conflict resolution as well as first hand knowledge on political decision making process. The Council Members are for examples, former Presidents Ramos Horta of East Timor, Alexander Kwasniewski of Poland, Ricardo Lagos of Chile, former Prime Ministers Abdullah Badawi of Malaysia, Romano Prodi of Italy who is also former President of the European Commission, former Prime Ministers Shaukat Aziz of Pakistan, Alfred Gusenbauer of Austria, former Vice President Jusuf Kalla of Indonesia, former Philippines House Speaker Jose de Venecia, former Deputy Prime Minister Jayakumar of Singapore, former Foreign Ministers Li Zhaoxing of China, Hassan Wirajuda of Indonesia, Syed Hamid Albar of Malaysia, Yashwant Sinha of India, Professor David Kennedy of Harvard Law School and myself as Chairman of the Council. Each of them joins APRC as a Global Citizen, they do not represent any country, government nor any political party. With such composition, APRC Council Members therefore have full understanding of the sensitivity and complexity of each conflict and have clear understanding of a proper approach to those involved in the conflict, many of whom they used to work with during their tenure in the office. The Council Members, with their diverse background and impartiality, will be able to offer a comfort level to parties to the conflict. The second unique characteristic is that APRC is an organization that is international, independent, impartial and non-governmental. It will have unparalleled access to all  levels of decision-makers involved in conflict situations. Third, although each Member has vast experiences and each can contribute to peace, under APRC, they will put their resources together and act collectively. In this way, they can have much greater potential to contribute to conflict avoidance and to assist in peace dialogue. Their good offices, knowledge and expertise can assist governments, organizations and societies in Asia to reduce tension and to reach a peaceful resolution of conflicts.

The APRC will act on the principle of non-interference, silent/quiet diplomacy and consensus upon request, which are key to peace dialogue under Asian culture and practice. Nonetheless, the APRC may choose to engage in any peace process or process where tension can be reduced provided all parties involved grant their consent. Council Members will therefore serve as prime movers, facilitators and pathfinders of peace dialogue and conflict avoidance and resolution. In the words of H.E. Wang Yang this morning, it is this dialogue and consultation with greater wisdom, seriousness, rationality and flexibility that is needed to avoid conflict in Asia.

 It is in my strong view that APRC will be able to play a complementary role to reduce several areas of tension and conflict in Asia. It is incumbent upon us all to help each other think how tension will not escalate into a conflict at a level which creates obstacles for parties to the conflict in Asia to work together. If some of the pockets of problems and conflicts in Asia can not be peacefully handled, there is a high risk of extra regional powers to intervene and support some parties to the conflict to react in a way that may not be conducive to peace in the region. If there is no peace, the rise of Asia will be retarded and benefits to our children will be impaired. Our effort to dovetail our national and sub-regional strategies for development and well being of our people, and our strive towards close cooperation for regional integration will not bear fruit. As for friends outside our region, tension and armed conflicts in Asia will snowball to their well being, for Asia can not be an engine of growth for Asia and beyond.

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for us to join hands and work together for peace to prevail and to sustain in Asia. Let’s act together, move together, for our future can not be sustained if we do not have sustainable peace in Asia.

Thank you very much for your attention.