11 July 2024

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha will this morning join his ASEAN counterparts in a summit to discuss among other things concerted efforts by the regional grouping to fight against the novel coronavirus.

The summit, which will take place via a tele-conference, is expected to endorse a proposal by Thailand to set up an ASEAN fund to support the grouping’s joint effort to combat the spread of the virus. The fund, known as ASEAN Response Fund,  will be used to help ASEAN countries acquire necessary medical supplies and equipment as well as to support research to battle the disease.

The ASEAN Summit, to be chaired by Vietnamese Prime Minister and ASEAN chair Nguyen Xuan Phuc,  will be followed by an ASEAN Summit with China, Japan and South Korea.

Government Spokeswoman Narumon Pinyosinwat said the ASEAN plus three meeting comes at the suggestion of China made during a recent ministerial ASEAN-China meeting in Vientiane.   She said Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai agreed that since all the ASEAN countries as well as China, Japan and South Korea have all been affected by the deadly virus, a summit would help these countries forge cooperation in dealing with the disease.

Narumon said in her Facebook post yesterday that the ASEAN leaders will discuss cooperation in combatting the pandemic and measures to deal with its economic and social impact.

She said the ASEAN Summit will produce two joint declarations that stress the grouping’s and its dialogue partners’ determination to fight the pandemic and to jointly cushion its economic and social impact on its member countries.

The Jakarta Post reported that the summit will follow a number of cross-sectoral meetings over the past few weeks to discuss various issues that included collaborative outbreak investigations and supply chain maintenance

It said ASEAN senior health officials have convened several video conferences, including with their Chinese, Japanese and South Korean counterparts, to exchange information on containment and mitigation measures and identify needs for technical support and medical supplies in some ASEAN countries.

“I believe that through efforts to strengthen collaboration and a coordinated response in the region, we can win the war against COVID-19,” Indonesia’s Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto, who currently leads efforts under the ASEAN Health Ministers’ Meeting, said in a statement.

The Jakarta Post said the bloc has come under criticism over its slow response and its members’ proclivity for putting national interests first, despite being able to draw from a reservoir of existing mechanisms and accumulated experiences.