Thai parliament president expects closer ties with China after Li's visit

Updated: 2013-10-17 22:42
( Xinhua)
BANGKOK - Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's visit to Thailand has forged a closer relationship between the two nations and will bring tangible benefits to both sides, Somsak Kiatsuranont, president of the Thai parliament said here on Thursday.

In an exclusive interview with Xinhua, the top Thai lawmaker said Li's "fruitful" visit, which concluded on Oct. 13, has further strengthened the friendly ties between Thailand and China and boosted their pragmatic cooperation in various fields, especially in high-speed train and agriculture.

Describing China as an "expert" in high-speed train technology, Somsak, who visited China in April, said he had taken a ride on China's high-speed trains and witnessed the fast progress it has made in this field.

"China has developed advanced capabilities of building high-speed railways, while Thailand abounds with agricultural products such as rice and rubber," he said, adding that with respective advantages, the two countries can make their cooperation mutually beneficial.

During his three-day visit, Li delivered a 30-minute speech in the Thai parliament, the first by a foreign dignitary in the legislature's 81-year history.

The Chinese premier called on closer pragmatic cooperation between the two sides, saying that his country will support Chinese enterprises to import 1 million tons of rice from Thailand in the next five years and looks forward to cooperating with Thailand on its railway projects.

Somsak, who is also speaker of the lower house, expressed his support for the proposed visa exemption for regular passport holders of both countries, saying that it is an indication of the two sides' confidence in each other.

"The move will generate huge benefits to both sides, such as the tourism sector and two-way investment. Chinese visitors to Thailand will increase substantially," he said.

China is now the largest source of foreign visitors to Thailand, with the number of Chinese visitors to the country topping 2.8 million last year. In his speech, Li called for substantive talks on visa exemption. Somsak also suggested measures be worked out by both sides to cope with the possible "side-effects" of the visa exemption policy, such as the negative impacts on the environment and public security.

Besides, various parties in Thailand, divided as they are on many issues, share the same view when it comes to enhancing friendly ties with China, the parliament president noted.

"We usually have an intense atmosphere in the House, with the ruling and opposition lawmakers arguing and bickering on almost every issue," said Somsak.

"But during Premier Li's visit, all of them showed equal enthusiasm and amiability, because they all feel obligated to make efforts to enhance ties with China," he said, adding that many lawmakers were pleased with Li's speech and gave him sustained applauds.

The speech, which was a huge success according to the parliament president, has brought Thai politicians closer to the Chinese premier, who visited Thailand for the first time since taking office in March.

On regional scale, Somsak said China can see Thailand, which sits at the center of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), as the "gateway" to the regional grouping.



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