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Friday, June 26, 2015, Ashar 12, 1422 BS, Ramadan 8, 1436 Hijr

Bangla-Thai Secy Level Talks
Long-term plan envisaged for mitigating transnational crime
Diplomatic Correspondent
Published : Friday, 26 June, 2015,  Time : 12:00 AM,  View Count : 220

Bangladesh in principle has extended the deadline to repatriate hundreds of boatpeople stranded in Thailand, after the scheduled date of a month has elapsed.
The Foreign Secretaries of Bangladesh and Thailand in a joint press conference on Thursday afternoon said the recent migrant crisis, human trafficking, boatpeople refugees which caused global outcry needs a long-term programme to mitigate the transnational crime.
The press conference was addressed by Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque and his Thai counterpart Norachit Sinhaseni at the State Guest House Padma in the capital.
After three years of signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to hold Foreign Office Consultation (FOC), the two countries held their first two-day dialogue at Foreign Secretary level between the two countries in Dhaka on Wednesday.
Bangladesh and Thailand will sign a number of bilateral agreements and MOUs during the upcoming official visit of Thai Foreign Minister later to Dhaka at the end of this year.
Both the countries have indicated their readiness to participate in the first Joint Commission of Foreign Ministers and are expected to sign documents on road, coastal shipping, culture, health, tourism and other issues.
The two countries have discussed in a cordial, open and frank environment. Wide range of agenda were discussed, which included bilateral, regional and international issues, as well as the entire gamut of trade and investment issue. "You just name it, we have discussed every issues" the secretary remarked.
Thai Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs Norachit Sinhaseni deemed human trafficking and boatpeople, a global crisis and Thailand has faced the challenges since the Second World War, decades of war in Indo-China and conflicts in the region, which caused thousands of war refugees.
The recent migrant crisis posed a serious threat to Southeast Asia and neighbours of Thailand and has engaged in crackdown on smugglers, not only human traffickers, but also drug and other contraband items.
On trans-national crimes including money laundering and drug trafficking, it was agreed that to establish effective collaboration between the Department of Special Investigations (DSI) of Thailand and the Special Branch of Bangladesh and to combat transnational crimes, an MOU could be signed. They also agreed to establish a bilateral forum to address issues related to trans-national crimes.
The Thai secretary appreciated Bangladesh zero-tolerance to human trafficking and smuggling and its commitment to crush the transnational crime.
The Southeast countries including Myanmar have stepped up sea patrol and stopping undocumented fishing boats in the seas, Sinhaseni said.
The rickety fishing boats are responsible for human trafficking, which has left 6,000 to 7,000 boatpeople stranded on shores of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.
The Thai secretary said they need to explore all avenues to find a lasting solution to the human trafficking crisis.
The meeting decided for form a joint mobility group and entrusted to explore modalities to resolve the migrant crisis.
Regarding exemption on visa regime, Sinhaseni said immediately diplomats will be given port entry visa and both countries have agreed to sign an MOU. While official passports issued by Bangladesh will be considered for visa exemption in future, he said.
Meanwhile, the Thai secretary said rapid visa process to accelerate visa formalities to "medical tourism" has been pushed into priority category, if the visitors can submit original medical documents of recognised Thai medical institutions, the visa would be provided in two days.
The two foreign secretaries have visualised afresh the connectivity between the two countries in South Asia and Southeast Asia.
It is possible for Bangladesh and Thailand to establish connectivity by land and sea routes. The Bangladesh-India-China-Nepal (BICN) has envisaged land routes from Kolkata (India) to Kunming (China), Haque said.
Whereas the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) East-West corridor will connect Da Nang (Vietnam) in the east and Mandalay in Myanmar through Laos, Thailand and Malaysia, while the other North-South corridor will connect Singapore to Kunming, Sinhaseni said.
Possibilities of ASEAN corridors and BICN corridor could be potential connectivity among the two alliances. Incidentally ASEAN North-South corridor and BICN silk route both converge at Kunming, the Thai secretary observed.
[related story on page 17]

Editor : Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury
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