NEW YORK, 8 MAY 2002

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Mr. President,
Mr. Secretary General,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Our Youth Delegates,

It is indeed a great honour and a pleasure for me to lead the Delegation of the Royal Thai Government and address this historic Special Session of the United Nations on Children. I wish to congratulate the Secretary General of the United Nations and the Executive Director of UNICEF and to express our appreciation to them for organizing this unique event which will certainly become a landmark in our endeavor towards a Global Movement for Children.

Mr. President,
Mr. Secretary General,

I am confident that under your able guidance to conduct this meeting, the outcome will be a great success. In this connection, I am pleased to pledge on behalf of the Prime Minister of Thailand, Dr. Thaksin Shinawatra, that the Royal Thai Government is fully committed in pursuing the global agenda for children that will be adopted by this Assembly. We intend to make this Global Movement for Children a truly Local Movement for children in Thailand. We want all segments of Thai society to rally around to promote the rights and ensure the well-being of children. We shall also cooperate with other countries in our region as well as elsewhere in the world, and the international agencies, NGOs, the private sector, media and other donors and partners in this endeavor. We truly believe that investing in children must be done by all segments of the society as it is the best insurance that any country and the world could have for sustainable development and social, economic and political stability.

Mr. President,
Mr. Secretary General,

The end of the decade progress review based on the Declaration of the 1990 World Summit for Children has demonstrated that Thailand is close to realizing its aim of fulfilling child survival and development. Although we have been successful in many areas of child protection and child rights promotion, we realize that we still have a long way to go before every child can enjoy the full freedom, opportunities and benefits they are entitled to as defined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The United Nations Convention ratified by the Royal Thai Government in 1992 remains the centerpiece in Thailand's overall emphasis on child well-being. The process of ratifying the two Optional Protocols on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and on the involvement of children in armed conflict is also under way. While national level progress is impressive, the challenge of reducing the disparities and reaching the unreached, poverty-stricken, and marginalized groups remains. Similarly, sustaining the already achieved progress in basic services and improving their quality, efficiency and cost-effectiveness are also continuing challenges that should not be overlooked.

Mr. President,
Mr. Secretary General,

Today, I am delighted to report to this august Assembly that no Thai child dies due to hunger, despite the recent economic crisis. Our under-one immunization programme is almost universal, with coverage of BCG vaccination close to 98%, DPT3 / OPV3 of over 96% and measles close to 95%. Our gross primary school enrollment rates have remained high consistently over ninety percent for the past decade. We have enhanced the access to clean drinking water and sanitation facilities to cover 92% and 98 % respectively. These accomplishments have enabled reduction of infant mortality to 26 per 1,000 live births and under-five mortality to 31 per 1,000 live births, even as early as 1996.

Also I am happy to say that a more integrated approach is being developed to address issues of child protection and child rights. We have learnt that government alone cannot and should not assume all these responsibilities. While policy and resources commitment of the Government is vital, we need full and active participation of and consultation with all parts of the society, including NGOs, governmental organizations, the private sector, academic institutions, media, the parents, teachers and community and most importantly, the children themselves. It is pertinent to mention in this context that Thailand is among few developing countries which mobilize a substantial level of private sector funding of the programmes for children. In addition, the cooperation from the private sector is being broadened to include other forms of partnership for the programming of needs and rights of children.

The new Thai Constitution 1997 and the Ninth National Economic and Social Development Plan for 2002-2006 have been developed with a specific focus on human rights and human development. In this context, the protection and means of our children's safety and needs through the strengthening of the family ties, traditional/religious values and community cohesiveness have proved to be effective means for coping with the social and economic changes resulting from globalization. The principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child such as "non-discrimination", "best interest of the child" and "child participation" are being incorporated into the new laws and in the new National Programme of Action for the Survival, Protection and Development of Children.

Recent developments and reforms in Thailand have further emphasized the need to eradicate poverty that strikes our nation and which have a multitude of undesirable effects on our young. Our present Ninth National Economic and Social Development Plan has continued in the direction that it places "people" at the forefront of development, allowing and encouraging community participation and consultation at all levels from vision development to strategy setting.
Our National Youth Commission has already approved the National Children and Youth Development Plan for 2002-2006 as well as the National Plan for Preventing, Suppressing and Solving the Problems of Children and Women in Trafficking as well as children in especially difficult circumstances.

Mr. President,
Mr. Secretary General,

You may have observed that Thailand currently has undertaken many reforms and initiatives. One of which is political reform and administrative reforms. Under the 1997 Constitution, conditions are set to keep a balance of power through a system of checks and balances for better governance. Decentralization is used as a key strategy by relegating authority to local administrations, communities, community leaders and the local population to be in charge of the well-being of their localities. We believe that with this decentralization process we can address disparities, promote transparency, as well as encourage community participation and consultation at all stages of policy making, allowing everyone to have a stake in their future. This decentralized approach will be extended to our planning, implementation and monitoring of programmes for children as well.

Thai people are increasingly interested in good governance. National administration is watched carefully by general public. Media plays energetic role in portraying government policy implementation. Check and balance principles are being adopted and practiced by all parties in the society.

With regard to health reform, all Thai people, including children, under the current administration, are guaranteed equal access to basic health care under a universal health insurance scheme that is currently being tested. The cost of hospital visit has been capped at 30 Baht, less than one U.S. dollar per consultation, making medical treatment affordable for all. This also contributes to ensuring the rights for survival and well-being of our children, especially the most disadvantaged groups.

In education reform, our new Constitution stipulates that all children should enjoy the rights to development through access to quality and relevant basic education, twelve years, at no cost to families. In order to address the issues of quality education, teacher training and school curriculum review are currently under way which also emphasize the need for a "learner-centered approach". This child-friendly method allows the educational system to enhance perception and better understand the connection among teaching, learning and establishing environments for education of students. It also encourages and promotes changes in both teachers' and students' perceptions while facilitating interactions of the two groups.

Our government sees poverty and disparity reduction in rural areas as essential in meeting basic human needs to allow families to better survive and to invest in their children's future. I would particularly like to highlight reforms in the rural sector in terms of income generating and empowering rural communities. Our innovative "One Village-One Product" project is aimed at developing rural communities and strengthening local economies. A One-Million Baht fund has been established for each village as a soft loan facility for investment in rural areas so villagers can move towards self-reliance. The above reforms and approaches can be directed to provide opportunities to promote a child-centered integrated strategy for community development through upgrading the living conditions of the most deprived areas.

In order to facilitate the above-mentioned, all local governments throughout the country are encouraged to develop a plan of action for children and youth development which is in accordance with the National Youth Policy and the 2002-2006 National Children and Youth Development Plan.

Mr. President,
Mr. Secretary General,

We have identified some priority areas such as the role of family in early childhood and adolescence. In child protection, there are still many challenges that Thailand has to deal with. These include development of child-friendly juvenile justice system and revisions of laws in compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Also, many children and adolescences are at risks due to HIV/AIDS, drugs and substance abuse, trafficking, sexual and other worse forms of exploitation as well as child abuse and domestic violence. These are not only critical issues for Thailand but also are relevant to other countries in the region.

In this context, we are pleased that the Millenium Goals of the United Nations and the medium term strategic plan of UNICEF as well as specific priorities and strategies identified by various UN bodies based in Bangkok focus on issues that Thailand is keen to address. For example, education and child participation appear as two key issues in regards to child participation.

On behalf of the Royal Thai Government, I wish to reassure to the world community that our government and citizens of Thailand are committed to working dynamically, seeking new ways, enhancing bilateral and multi-lateral relations, as well as cooperating with the international community to improve the condition of children and youth both in our country and also in the region. We are happy to enhance the ongoing healthy cooperation between Thailand and other countries in the region to visit and learn from each other to be able to work together.

I wish to take this opportunity to convey on behalf of my country, our gratitude to conferences such as this, that has allowed Thailand to gain much from partnership building with the UN member countries and various UN agencies including UNICEF as well as other international NGOs and donors. It is through these multiple relationships that we have gained knowledge and experiences from others, and have acceded to various international laws and conventions related to children. We believe that it is through continued partnerships with these arrays of organizations that we can realize our mutual goal of reducing the injustices that today's children face.

Mr. President,
Mr. Secretary General,

We should be happy that we have come a long way in fighting for the rights of the child, but we cannot be complacent; the battle has to continue. We, the global community, must pursue, without doubt or hesitation, enacting relevant policies and legislation to safeguard our children from the risks and dangers they face and also to provide opportunities for their survival, development, protection and participation.
It is wonderful to look out at the Assembly and the active involvement of youth in this Conference. It is my ardent belief that the youth delegates present today will one day dictate the policies of protection and well-being of the world's children. These are the pillars of any society and by reinforcing this foundation we will be able to create a stable and peaceful society where all humans, young or old, are treated justly with respect and dignity. However, the destiny of children lies mainly in the hands of leaders. Without firm political commitment at the highest level, it will not be possible to reform or refine our policies, programmes, budgets and institutions to ensure the best interest of children. It is the vision of leaders and the will of policy makers that could pave the way to a World Fit for Children. Let us pledge here today to make the World Fit for Children, we must make our Country Fit for Children first. We must therefore not only "Say Yes for Children" today, but we must put our beautiful words into action. We must transpire actions into better, cleaner and safer lives for children. For it is these children who are with us today, will come back one day, to this Assembly, as responsible delegates, and make their judgements on your and my commitments made in this gathering.

So my friends,
We must not fail.
We must not disappoint our children.
Thank you very much.