United Nations Secretary‑General António Guterres departed Istanbul for Bangkok on Friday, 1 November. He arrived in Thailand on Saturday.
Not long after arrival, the Secretary‑General had a bilateral meeting with Nguyễn Xuân Phúc, Prime Minister of Viet Nam, followed by a separate meeting with Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister of Thailand and host of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit.
From there the Secretary‑General visited Centenary Park in the Chulalongkorn University. The university compound features a range of innovative measures, such as a green roof, water retention and wetlands, among others, all introduced to provide a green space in the city and to mitigate the impact of climate change on Bangkok. At time of floods, the Park’s underground retention tanks can hold 1 million gallons of water, thus significantly reducing the impact of flooding in Bangkok.
Speaking to the press afterwards, he noted that a recent study showed that the increasing impact of climate change could have a devastating impact on people living in coastal areas, most notably in Asia. “Unless we are able to reverse this trend, because climate change for the moment is running faster than what we are, unless we are able to defeat climate change, in 2050 the research has forecasted that 300 million people will be flooded by sea water in the world,” Mr. Guterres said.
A big part of tackling climate change will involve stopping the creation of new coal power plants. “There is an addiction to coal that we need to overcome because it remains a major threat in relation to climate change,” the Secretary‑General told journalists.
Later on Saturday evening, the Secretary‑General had a bilateral meeting with President Joko Widodo of Indonesia.
On Sunday morning, the Secretary‑General attended the official opening ceremonies of the thirty‑fifth ASEAN Summit and later met with the United Nations country team in Thailand as well as the United Nations regional directors based in Bangkok.
Returning to the ASEAN Summit site, the Secretary‑General participated in the tenth United Nations‑ASEAN Summit, which was part of the thirty‑fifth ASEAN Summit. Speaking to delegates, Mr. Guterres underscored that at a time of great turbulence he fully “appreciated ASEAN’s steadfast support for multilateralism and a rules‑based international order”. (See Press Release SG/SM/19843.)
He reviewed a number of challenges facing the region, notably climate change and the continuing construction of coal plants, as well as the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and the ongoing crisis facing the Rohingya people.
“It remains, of course, Myanmar’s responsibility to address the root causes and ensure a conducive environment for the safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable repatriation of refugees to Rakhine State, in accordance with international norms and standards,” Mr. Guterres said.
Afterwards, the Secretary‑General spoke to journalists. In his opening statement he remarked on the very positive cooperation between the United Nations and ASEAN. “The cooperation between the two organizations is today exemplary, extremely deep and diversified, and it is a fundamental pillar of multilateralism in our world,” he said.
He repeated his call for the region’s economies to move towards renewable energy. “My appeal is for an emphasis to be put on renewables and to be able to stop the construction of new coal power plants,” the Secretary‑General said. Asked if coal was public enemy number one, the Secretary‑General answered that it wasn’t “public enemy number one because, unfortunately, there are many public enemies. But this is clearly on the top of the list.”
Later in the day, the Secretary‑General met with Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China. The Secretary‑General thanked China for its contribution to the United Nations and for its strong commitment to multilateralism. Their discussion focused for the most part on climate change.
Before leaving Bangkok, the Secretary‑General visited the Wat Bowonniwet Vihara, one of the two temples where relics and cremated remains of King Bhumibol Adulyadej have been enshrined. The temple was built during the reign of King Rama III in the first half of the nineteenth century.
The Secretary‑General arrived back in New York early on Monday morning, 4 November.