The Asia-Pacific region today faces security uncertainties as a result of a "lack of proper equilibrium", Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said last night, urging nations to come together in dialogue and compromise to find solutions.
The former Thai army chief also spoke on domestic issues, saying that while the military has played an indispensable role in peace and security since he came to power in a coup in 2014, democracy will return to the country as planned.
In the half-hour speech, he spelt out regional issues that go beyond traditional security threats to include the economy, food, water, energy and cyber security.
He was addressing more than 560 delegates at the 15th Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual security forum organised by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.
"The regional architecture today lacks proper equilibrium," he said. "Resolving the security challenges together requires we have in place good regional architecture. The end of the Cold War brought about changes, creating a multi-polar situation without clear-cut rules that has led to growing uncertainty.
"Asean must be united and increase its role in building a new equilibrium in the region, to build an atmosphere of peace," he said in his speech.
This applied to the festering territorial disputes in the South China Sea as well.
Thailand is not a claimant state, and Mr Prayut last night called on countries to "avoid the trap of having to choose sides" and to "promote cooperation of major powers" in the region.
"We promote the freedom of overflight and navigation, and we support peaceful resolution of conflict in line with international law including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea," he said.
And when Dr Chung Min Lee, professor of international relations at South Korea's Yonsei University, noted that China's growing military might in the South China Sea was the greatest regional threat, Mr Prayut would say only: "If we look at everything from the standpoint of conflict, we will never be able to see a way out."
Internally, Thailand is still in a period of transition, he said.
"If we can bring peace and order back to society, reforms can then take place."
He added: "I can assure you Thailand will return to democracy according to a (government) road map, and that Thailand will uphold the democratic process and all our international obligations."
Earlier yesterday, Mr Prayut was hosted to tea by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Istana. Both leaders reaffirmed longstanding and multifaceted ties between their countries and exchanged views on evolving security challenges in the region, Singapore's Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a statement.