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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General's remarks at press stakeout with Thai Prime Minister (Q&A below)

Bangkok, 16 November 2011

Thank you, Madame Prime Minister.

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.

Sawatdee khrap!

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, I am very honoured and happy to be back in Thailand.

The United Nations and Thailand have a long and enduring partnership. I am here to strengthen that partnership.

Bangkok is our Asian headquarters. I thank the Thai Government and the people of this city for being such wonderful hosts.

I am visiting this country at a time when the city and the country are coping with the worst flooding in decades and I have been deeply affected by the images of what Thai people are going through.

The United Nations is working closely with disaster management authorities. We stand ready to do everything possible we can to help you respond and recover, and I would like to take this opportunity to express my most profound sympathies and condolences to those people who have lost their lives and who lost their valuable properties and their beloved ones.

I am sure that under the eminent leadership of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, this crisis will be overcome with a strong, determined will, resilient will of the Thai people and with the help of international community.

I am grateful to many international community members who have been generously supporting Thai people in their efforts to overcome this crisis. The United Nations also takes pride and is happy to be part of these efforts by providing modest support.

This afternoon, I will see the damage first-hand, and later today, I will be visiting United Nations agencies and staff working here.

And I will also attend a roundtable on universal health coverage and visit an exhibit on Thai universal health care. I have expressed my commendation and praised the Government of Thailand for their very successful and effective universal health coverage which can be emulated by many countries in the world.

I am grateful to Prime Minister Yingluck for her strong support of the United Nations in promoting and working together in the raising and mobilizing [of] necessary support to provide the necessary health care to many women and children, who are needlessly dying because of lack of support.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

With the Prime Minister I just had very productive and useful discussions on matters of our common concern.

I congratulated the Prime Minister on her election as the first woman Prime Minister and leading this country. This has a great message again when United Nations and international community are really trying hard to promote gender empowerment.

We discussed the flooding as well as cooperation between the Thailand and the United Nations Thailand's work as Chair of the United Nations Human Rights Council and Thailand's contributions to peace and security, including UN peacekeeping forces.

We also discussed regional issues, including Myanmar and cooperation between ASEAN and the United Nations. I am looking forward to my participation in the fourth UN-ASEAN summit meeting in Bali.

The Prime Minister briefed me on the current situation in Thailand and the efforts that are now under way for a national reconciliation dialogue. I encouraged the Prime Minister to continue these efforts through an inclusive, broad-based process. I also told the Prime Minister that the United Nations stands ready to assist in this important effort, including support for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Thailand is a dynamic United Nations Member State that contributes across the international agenda. I look forward to continuing our work together.

And I thank you very much.

Khop khun khrap!

Thank you.

Q: In light of the floods that Bangkok is experiencing, do you hope to take a message to Durban about the price a country pays for economic development without keeping in mind the environmental consequences? Before you came here, you were in Dhaka, making a case for the adaptation fund to help countries like Thailand, Bangladesh. How important is the flood, or the lessons from the flood, for climate change negotiators in Durban?

SG: That is a very important question for which we have to work together. I am glad that you raised this issue again. I have been raising my voice on behalf of the international community on the importance of addressing climate change without further delay. Leaders are going to meet in Durban in just three weeks time. I hope that the international community members will address this climate change[issue] with the strongest possible political leadership and commitment and also mobilizing necessary funds.

First of all, at the minimum, the Durban conference should be able to implement what had been agreed in Cancun, last year, in Mexico. That means, they should launch this green climate fund and they should also launch this adaptation committee and its related committees. And they should also make a clarification on the future of the Kyoto Protocol.

I again urge the Member States to make clear guidelines and deliver what had been pledged in Copenhagen in 2009, and that is $30 billion by the end of 2012, next year, for the developing countries in their efforts to adapt and mitigate, and there should be clear guidelines and framework to deliver $100 billion per annum by 2020. This was a pledge by the world leaders made in Copenhagen in 2009.

As you may remember, I have submitted my high-level advisory group's climate change financing report. That report contains several options to mobilize $100 billion per annum by 2020. The advisory group reported that mobilizing $100 billion may be a big challenge, but it is doable. If there is a political will, even during this economic crisis time, I believe we can do it. Therefore I am urging the world leaders to address this matter with a sense of urgency. We do not have any time to waste and I count on the leadership of world leaders including Thailand.

Q: I would like to know your concrete ideas about how the UN can support Thailand deal with the floods.

SG: When this crisis happened, flooding happened, the United Nations expressed its readiness to the Thai Government that the United Nations is ready to help. In fact, the Thai Government expressed the opinion that they would not ask for such international support. There are some countries who are able to, who have the capacity to, address these natural disasters. So in such cases, the United Nations tries to provide a certain level of assistance on a technical and logistical level.

As this flooding continues and developed to a real crisis, many Member States of the United Nations, on a bilateral basis, have provided very generous support. [Through the UN system, there is also significant capacity in Thailand to use global reserve funds intended for disaster response, including the Central Emergency Relief Fund.] The UN country team continues to provide necessary assistance, working very closely with the line ministries of the Thai Government, with the technical capacity and operational support. Through the UN system there is also significant capacity in Thailand to use global service reserve fund intended for disaster response.

And I believe that the Thai Government is able to overcome this crisis with the generous support from certain bilateral donor countries and I am convinced that the Thai Government and people can build your country better in the near future.

Q: Thai factories create spare information technology parts, but have been impacted by the flooding. What is your suggestion to the Thai Government on this issue?

SG: As I've said, all United Nations agencies based in Bangkok and other agencies based outside Bangkok are working together to help national response of the Thai Government.

As far as United Nations agencies based in Bangkok are concerned, under the leadership of the Executive Secretary of ESCAP [United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific], they are mobilizing and working very closely with the line ministries of Thailand. This includes shelter, disease control, surveillance, mosquito control, support for unaccompanied and separated children, and emergency funding. And particularly, UNICEF [United Nations Children's Fund] has participated in a recent assessment, which has found that the key priority is water and sanitation. Madame Prime Minister has just mentioned the importance of how to deal with these water resources. On a both immediate and long-term basis, United Nations will continue to work together with line ministries of Thai Government. I have cautioned the Prime Minister that while most of the areas are still under water, the Government should take very careful assessments to not create any waterborne diseases. UNICEF and other agencies, like WHO [World Health Organization], are very closely watching and working together with the Thai Government.

Q: You said yourself that the flood has become a crisis. Can the UN work more constructively or creatively with agencies in Thailand, apart from the bureaucracy, on issues such as migrant workers who are fleeing back to Myanmar?

SG: When we discussed these flood issues with the Prime Minister, I also emphasized the importance of learning lessons from this mega-flooding. We may not be able to prevent certain types of natural disasters, like earthquakes and tsunamis, or this type of mega-flooding. But depending upon how well the Government is making preparations to reduce the risk coming from disasters - that is what we call disaster risk reduction - we can save a lot human lives and properties. This is one thing. That is why the United Nations has been emphasizing the importance of prevention, importance of disaster risk reduction preparedness. I have already launched a global campaign two years ago. This is getting again wider and wider support. We have seen a tragic accident in Fukushima in Japan during the tsunami and [involving] the nuclear reactor plants. There needs to be very close coordination between local and national governments in coping with this kind of crisis and there should be a full protection of basic human rights and humanitarian assistance, regardless of who is affected, particularly, you mentioned, these minority groups, migrant workers. And humanitarian assistance and providing this basic need should be provided to all the people without any discrimination.

We have also seen a significant increase in economic loss associated with the floods. Therefore, how soon and how well and how decisive the Thai Government and the countries affected by all these types of crisis [are] will determine [how] to reduce the risk of economic losses. That is very much important. I know that there are many industrial plants which have been affected by this flood.

I sincerely hope that under the very dynamic leadership of the Prime Minister and the whole determined will and resilient will of the Thai people, this crisis will be overcome soon. As I said again repeatedly, the United Nations stands ready to work with the Thai Government.

Thank you very much.


Off-the-Cuff on 16 November 2011