Foreign Minister of Thailand Kasit Piromya has advocated a closer security relationship with India, especially in intelligence sharing to check money laundering and drug trafficking. India and Thailand also must cooperate on tackling piracy off the Somalian coast, Mr. Piromya told The Hindu on his second visit to the country in just over a year.

The Foreign Minister wanted closely coordinated positions on Myanmar – opposing western sanctions while encouraging the regime to take democracy icon Aung Suu Kyii on board and releasing political prisoners.

A leading advocate for greater connectivity between India and ASEAN countries, Mr. Piromya touched on the missing links and what can be done to ensure seamless air, land and sea connections.

Mr. Piromaya’s visit was preceded by that of the Commerce Minister Pornthiva Nakasai and will be followed by that of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. He was here to attend the India-ASEAN dialogue as well as prepare for Mr. Vejjajiva's upcoming visit.

In the security area, Mr. Piromaya felt the first priority should be intelligence networking to check money laundering, cross border drugs and human trafficking. “Second is that we have been more affected by Somalian pirates. Our fishing and commercial fleet has been subjected to ransom. At the same time the UN Secretary General has asked the former French Minister Lang to submit a report. We should be working closely on this, I told External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, not only in terms of providing ships off the Somalian coast but to work on beefing up preventive and self help measures for the merchant fleet.

“We also have to do something for Somalian authorites on land because the pirates after getting captured have to be out on land for trials. We should work together in tracing the ransom money because it is being negotiated by a middleman in Europe which is an international crime,” he said.

On the military side, besides joint exercises, he advocated joint work on R & D in military support equipment and main military hardware.

Asked about India’s position on Myanmar, Mr. Piromaya pointed out that the common message to the regime should be for further political liberties, release of prisoners and accommodating Aung Suu Kyi in nation building. At the same time both countries should vigorously oppose western sanctions and any move to later conduct an international trial of people suspected of human rights abuses.

“Suu Kyii, whether you like it or not, you have to work with her. I hope the Myanmar Government would have substantial dialogue with her. She is a person the world will listen to. One has to convince the new leadership that Suu Kyii would help Myanmar on the world stage.’’

On his meeting with her in January, the Thailand Foreign Minister came away with the impression that “she is determined to work for her country and be an active participant in ASEAN projects.’’ On trial of alleged human rights abusers, he wanted it to be an internal affair and if the need arises to resolve matters within the ASEAN community.

Air connectivity should be easy top achieve. “What is needed is an open skies policy and upgrading of regional airports. For better sea linkages, the Asian development Bank could be involved to examine the port infrastructure and provide a soft loan.'' As far as a road linkage is concerned, the Thai Minister felt that with the Myanmar capital moving to the north, its Government would pay more attention to a linkage between northern Thailand and India via Mandalay.

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