The 1st ACMECS Ministerial Retreat was held in Krabi, Thailand, on 2 November 2004.
The delegations to the meeting were led by RE. Mr. Hor Namhong, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Kingdom of Cambodia, H.E. Mr. Somsavat Lengsavad, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Lao People's Democratic Republic, H.E. U Kyaw Thu, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Union of Myanmar, H.E. Dr. Surakiart Sathirathai, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand, and H.E. Mr. Le Cong Phung, Permanent Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
Ministers also met in an Open Session with representatives of Development Partners from Australia, France, Germany, Japan, New Zealand and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
The Ministers endorsed the Report of the Senior Officials' Meeting (SOM), which was held in Yangon, Myanmar, on 19 August 2004.
At the conclusion of their Retreat, the Ministers issued the following statement:
We warmly welcome the accession of Vietnam to ACMECS and the participation of its Minister in an ACMECS meeting for the first time. We signed the Protocol to the Bagan Declaration on the Admission of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to the AyeyawadyChao Phraya - Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS).
We renew our commitment to the goals of the Bagan Declaration to promote socioeconomic development in the sub-region and to create an enabling environment for mutually beneficial cooperation among member countries.
We agree to task SOM and the Coordinating Country of each Sectoral Working Group to ensure that the work of ACMECS and regional triangular cooperation frameworks supplement and complement one another. ACMECS should serve to fill in the missing links in other frameworks, and vice versa. We urge that senior officials of ACMECS and other fora inform one another of their respective work.
To expedite progress in the five priority areas of cooperation identified in the Bagan Declaration, we agree to establish a working group for each sector of cooperation. Each member country has volunteered to serve as Coordinating Country for the sector in which it takes particular interest, as follows:
- Trade and Investment Facilitation - Thailand;
- Agricultural and Industrial Cooperation Myanmar;
- Transport Linkages - Lao PDR;
- Tourism Cooperation - Cambodia;
- Human Resources Development -Vietnam.
We take note of the Terms of Reference for Sectoral Working Group Coordinating Countries under ACMECS, as prepared by the SOM, and encourage its use as a guideline to pursue further progress in the five sectors of cooperation. We agree that the Working Groups should meet regularly to monitor and follow up on ACMECS activities.
We appreciate the report on progress and status of ACMECS projects, and instruct SOM to meet every six months and update us regularly to ensure that our cooperation remains on track as mandated by Leaders. We encourage SOM to arrange a meeting with development partners within the next six months to follow up on our work.
We urge expeditious progress in tourism cooperation, including through the study of the development of an ACMECS Single Visa Scheme to facilitate travel within the ACMECS region.
We encourage the participation of the private sector in all areas of cooperation, particularly those that are ready for early implementation. The ACMECS Business Council can serve as a joint mechanism for the ACMECS member countries in this regard.
We also welcome the interest of the Development Partners in forging partnership with ACMECS on sub-regional development. We appreciate the expressions of support and goodwill by Development Partners for the goals and objectives of ACMECS, both in principle and practice.
- In this regard, we welcome the collaboration between Thailand, Laos and Japan in the development of the SavannakhetIMukdaharn area, in particular to explore the possible shared use of Savannakhet Airport in the future. In this regard, we welcome that Japan will, at the request of Thailand and Laos, conduct a study on Savannakhet Airport, and that the three countries will establish a joint working committee to ensure coherence between the study and the discussions between Thailand and Laos on this matter.
- We are encouraged that France welcomed the ACMECS initiative for regional development and increased integration, expressed its support for ownership of the ACMECS process by the member countries themselves, and indicated its readiness to consider financing projects advanced by ACMECS.
- We welcome the ongoing efforts between the governments of Germany and Thailand to strengthen joint development cooperation with third countries, in particular the imminent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding in this regard.
We also look forward to inviting other interested Development Partners to participate in ACMECS activities.
- We welcome the Thai Cabinet's approval of one hundred million baht (2.5 million US dollars) for non-infrastructure projects from its national budget to support ACMECS common and Thai bilateral ACMECS activities identified as priority projects for 20042005. We are encouraged that Thailand is exploring the possibility of earmarking an amount of 10 billion baht (approximately 250 million US dollars) for development cooperation with neighboring countries over a period of five years, from which amount approximately 4,000 million baht (100 million US dollars) have been approved for cooperative projects with neighboring countries.
We agree to create a website to facilitate coordination of projects and provide a channel for public communication and outreach on the work of ACMECS, and requested Thailand to carry out this initiative.
We agree to hold the next ACMECS Ministerial Meeting in Cambodia in 2005, and the second ACMECS Summit in Thailand in mid-December 2005.