PHUKET, Thailand, July 20 (Xinhua) -- The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) must be visa-free within the region and offer an ASEAN Single Visa for those outside the region, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said here on Monday.
"ASEAN must be able to act decisively and in a timely manner to address both internal and external threats and challenges to the security and welfare of its member states and peoples," Abhisit said in his opening remarks before the 42nd ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting in Phuket.
The prime minister also emphasized that cooperation with ASEAN Dialogue Partners should be further strengthened to respond to challenges including the impact of the global economic and financial crisis, environmental and natural disaster as well as potential pandemics and other security issues.
"We have proven our resilience time and again and are on our way to building a Community that will be more competitive, relevant and caring for our peoples," Abhisit said.
The ministers will focus their discussions on human right issue and dispute settlement mechanism (DSM) among ASEAN nations.
"When there is an emergency somewhere within our region or beyond and a request is made for assistance, ASEAN must be able to effectively respond as a group and in a timely manner", said the prime minister.
Making ASEAN a Community of Connectivity, he said, could be achieved through improving both ASEAN's infrastructure such as transportation linkages, and harmonization of relevant rules and regulations governing region-wide transportation, and trade and investment.
"Only through a well-connected community can we realize our full economic potentials as well as take maximum advantage of our strategic location linking the massive economies of South Asia and our West and Northeast Asia to our North", he said.
Meanwhile, Community of Peoples, he explained, referred to a community whereby the peoples of ASEAN Member States were indeed beneficiaries of the various areas of ASEAN cooperation.
"The peoples of ASEAN are the region's most important resources. We need to ensure that they have equitable access to human development opportunities. Regional integration will succeed only if our peoples contribute to, and benefit from it", he said.