สุนทรพจน์ :  คำกล่าว นายวิชาวัฒน์ อิศรภักดี ผู้ช่วยรัฐมนตรีประจำกระทรวงการต่างประเทศเนื่องในโอกาสงานเปิดตัวศูนย์ศึกษาการต่างประเทศ วันที่ ๕ กันยายน ๒๕๖๒ ณ ห้องนราธิป กระทรวงการต่างประเทศ  ศูนย์ข่าว กต.

สุนทรพจน์ : คำกล่าว นายวิชาวัฒน์ อิศรภักดี ผู้ช่วยรัฐมนตรีประจำกระทรวงการต่างประเทศเนื่องในโอกาสงานเปิดตัวศูนย์ศึกษาการต่างประเทศ วันที่ ๕ กันยายน ๒๕๖๒ ณ ห้องนราธิป กระทรวงการต่างประเทศ

Speech by H.E. Mr. Vijavat Isarabhakdi
Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs
at the Official Launch of the International Studies Center
Thursday, 5 September 2019
at Naradhip Auditorium, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand

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Excellencies,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
 

Good afternoon and welcome to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  You are currently seated in the Naradhip Auditorium, named after one of Thailand’s greatest diplomats, statesmen and Foreign Ministers—H.R.H. Prince Naradhip Bongsprabandh, also known to the world as Prince Wan Waithayakon.
 

But as I look out into the audience, I am grateful for the presence of many other distinguished sons and daughters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, including former Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag, former Deputy Foreign Minister Virasakdi Futrakul, and several other of my eminent predecessors. At the same time, I am deeply honoured by the presence of the members of the Diplomatic Corps, the academic community, and representatives of various Thai agencies as we gather here today to mark the official launch of the International Studies Center (ISC).
 

My Minister, H.E. Don Pramudwinai, is greatly disappointed not to be here to welcome you all although he very much had his heart set on doing so. However, his responsibilities as Foreign Minister as well as current Chair of ASEAN made it necessary for him to be away on urgent business--at quite short notice--so he sends you all his best wishes and appreciation for contributing to the success of this event.
 

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,
 

Over three decades ago, back in 1987, when the original International Studies Center, or ISC, was established within Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the world was on the cusp of a new era. Within two years, the Berlin Wall would fall leading to the end of the Cold War, while China was undergoing its second wave of economic reforms which would presage the remarkable Rise of China. At the same time, a new multipolar world was emerging, which would enable the growth of ASEAN from a grouping of six countries at that time to a truly pan-regional organisation of ten, with a strong political voice.
 

Thailand detected the winds of change blowing across the globe and, the ISC was founded to help the Foreign Ministry in navigating these shifting horizons. In those early days, the ISC had the good fortune of being guided by two of Thailand’s most visionary diplomats of that time, namely, Dr Thanat Khoman, who headed the Institute of Foreign Affairs’ Policy Council, and Air Chief Marshal Siddhi Savetsila, Minister of Foreign Affairs at that time, who was instrumental in founding the Center.
 

Today, we find ourselves again at the crossroads of history when even the monumental changes of the late 1980s virtually pale in comparison to what we now face. In 1987, we anticipated an end to the conflict that had polarised the world for decades. However, today we witness an escalating rivalry between major and regional powers in the world at large, but especially in the Indo-Pacific, a vast area stretching across the two oceans and encompassing all countries on their rims. And ASEAN, as the centre of this evolving regional architecture where the Indian and Pacific Oceans intersect, and a key engine of its economic growth, has become the platform where geopolitical tensions are most visibly played out.
 

Integral to this rivalry is the technological race which has changed society and the global economy in ways which would have been unimaginable three decades ago. In the 1980s, we spoke of globalisation and believed its effects had arrived, but only now, with the advent of the Internet and other disruptive technologies, do we really understand what it is like to live in a truly borderless world.
 

With all the powerful tools of communication in our possession, we find that both opportunities and challenges are increasing and intensifying at an extraordinary rate. At a single click, a farmer in a remote corner of the country can sell his produce to a consumer halfway across the world. Yet this same click can also be the catalyst for a cyber-attack by a transnational criminal that could compromise the data of millions.
 

Alongside digital connectivity, more seamless physical linkages have had an equally huge impact. ASEAN has now become a single region of free flowing capital, goods and people, leading to an unprecedented level of trade and investment. But those very same connections have given rise to various non-traditional threats, such as international terrorism, human trafficking and drug- trafficking. And looming large above all of these threats is the spectre of climate change which has the capacity to undermine our very existence.
 

Excellencies,

Distinguished Guests,
 

Thailand is fully aware that handling change, whether that change is for better or for worse, is the most important element in our engagement with the outside world. This is reflected in Thailand’s national strategy, both domestic and international, which focuses on sustainability as a means of thriving and surviving in the world of today.
 

When I say “sustainability”, I hasten to add that Thailand is not restricted to the traditional and largely socio-economic definition of this word, but we attach great importance to the notion of “holistic sustainability”. This approach, known as the “sustainability of things”, is fundamental to the Government’s 20 Year National Strategy and encompasses the many interconnected dimensions of a sustainable society, including the digital sphere, security, the environment, and connectivity. This is likewise evident in our foreign policy under which we hope to foster international partnerships to create a more sustainable region and world that can weather the winds of change.
 

It is for this reason that the theme for Thailand’s Chairmanship of ASEAN this year is “Advancing Partnership for Sustainability”. Under this theme, we have explored new opportunities for cooperation among member states and with external partners in the realm of holistic sustainability. This has given rise to concrete progress in many diverse fields, such as cyber-security, natural disaster response, managing marine debris, and urban planning.
 

In taking a more united and proactive stance, ASEAN leaders adopted two important documents at the 34th ASEAN Summit in Bangkok. One is the ASEAN Leaders’ Vision Statement on Partnership for Sustainability, which conveys the leaders’ commitment to building an ASEAN community that guarantees sustainable development for all stakeholders by being genuinely people-centred, forward-looking and inclusive. The other is the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, which aims to promote ASEAN’s strategic value as a bridge for engagement with the major powers and other external partners built upon the 3Ms principle, namely mutual trust, mutual respect, and mutual interests.
 

Yet when all is said and done, the question that must be asked is how can we be truly sustainable if we cannot predict where the world is headed? This is where the role of diplomacy comes in, since an important aspect of diplomacy is the ability to anticipate change so that we can rise to the challenges that change presents, and capitalise on the opportunities it brings in the future. And the fuel that drives this type of diplomacy is insight and information. It is thus crucial, in an age such as this, to re-activate the ISC to support the process of crafting clear-sighted and forward-looking policy.
 

The ISC will be the Foreign Ministry’s link with the existing network of national and international think-tanks and institutes. The Center will adopt a multi-disciplinary approach, forging links with affiliated experts from multiple fields, whether academics, policy-makers, diplomats or members of civil society. It will serve as an arena where knowledge and ideas can be exchanged and sharpened as input for our foreign policy-making.
 

Excellencies,

Distinguished Guests,
 

I am delighted and gratified that so many members of the diplomatic corps and academic community are attending the opening ceremony of the Center this afternoon. It is my hope that the objectives and ethos of the ISC conveyed here today will lead to concrete cooperation among us all in the near future. I envision a Center of constructive engagement which will help set the direction for a more stable and sustainable region. And with this image in mind, I am pleased, on behalf of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, to declare the International Studies Center open.
 

Thank you.