Civil service exchanges 'help in adapting to changes,' says Vivian Balakrishnan

Dr Balakrishnan (left) calling on Thai Premier Prayut Chan-o-cha at the Government House in Bangkok yesterday. Dr Balakrishnan is due to meet Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn today.
Dr Balakrishnan (left) calling on Thai Premier Prayut Chan-o-cha at the Government House in Bangkok yesterday. Dr Balakrishnan is due to meet Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn today.ST PHOTO: TAN HUI YEE

Civil service exchanges, such as the one between Thailand and Singapore, help the countries adapt to a changing world being transformed by new technology and non-traditional security threats, said Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan yesterday during a two- day introductory visit to Thailand.

He made these comments in Bangkok at the opening of the 12th Coordinating Meeting of the Thailand- Singapore Civil Service Exchange Programme, a long-running event where civil servants from both countries gather to share ideas.

This year's programme, which involved government agencies dealing with health, information and communications, labour, culture and social welfare, sought to support Asean connectivity.

The Asean Economic Community, a framework to lower the barriers among the economies and communities within the bloc, was established at the end of last year.

Dr Balakrishnan said: "We need to press on with regional integration. And as we succeed, and Asean becomes more stable, more integrated and more cohesive, we will also become a more effective player on the regional and international stage."

Yesterday, he was welcomed by Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai and Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak. He also called on Thai Premier Prayut Chan-o- cha and paid a courtesy call to Privy Councillor Surayud Chulanont.

BECOMING A MORE EFFECTIVE PLAYER

We need to press on with regional integration. And as we succeed, and Asean becomes more stable, more integrated and more cohesive, we will also become a more effective player on the regional and international stage.

SINGAPORE FOREIGN MINISTER VIVIAN BALAKRISHNAN

Relations between the two countries are close, with bilateral trade reaching about S$30 billion every year. Thailand is also one of Singapore's top 10 trading partners.

Over 20,000 Singaporeans live, work and study in Thailand, while close to one million Singaporean tourists holidayed there last year.

Other collaborations have also helped to boost ties. The two countries are sharing experiences on water reuse and recycling and will be working together to jointly organise programmes on food security and agriculture in support of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Both sides are expanding the twinning of schools to build friendships among their students.

Meanwhile, there has also been a steady exchange of high-level visits. Mr Prawit Wongsuwan, another Thai deputy PM, and Mr Don visited Singapore last year. General Prayut visited Singapore three times last year - for a bilateral leaders' retreat, the National Day Parade and the funeral of former Singapore prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.

Today, Dr Balakrishnan is due to meet Thai Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn before flying back to Singapore in the afternoon.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 29, 2016, with the headline 'Civil service exchanges 'help in adapting to changes''. Print Edition | Subscribe