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September 21, 1999



Thailand, which recently gained observer status with the Washington-based Organization of American States (OAS), wants to see closer cooperation between the countries of Southeast Asia and the Western Hemisphere body. So declared that country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Surin Pitsuwan, in an address to the OAS Permanent Council on Tuesday.

Dr. Pitsuwan said: "Given the fact that we in Thailand and in Southeast Asia and the member nations of the OAS are united in the same struggle for peace and security, for economic development and for democracy and human dignity…we should work towards broadening and deepening our links." As an example, he proposed the establishment of "links between the ASEAN Free Trade Area and the North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA) which later could be expanded to the Free Trade Area of the Americas."

"Individually, the nations of Southeast Asia are seeking to put their houses in order and, collectively, we are seeking to build a new regional order based on regionalism and regional integration similar to the efforts that the member nations of the OAS have been undertaking," Dr. Pitsuwan told the member- and observer countries’ ambassadors and representatives in the Council.

Dr. Pitsuwan said ASEAN, the Association of South East Asian Nations of which his country was the current chair, must be open to "greater interaction with those outside the region." He stressed that the relevance of the Asian economic grouping would largely depend on its contribution to the "cause of peace and stability not only in our own region but also in the world at large as is the case with the OAS."

Sir Arlington Butler of The Bahamas, as OAS Permanent Council Chairman, presided over the session that received the Thai foreign minister.