Dr M urges Asean members to leverage on region’s 600 million-strong population

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, escorted by Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, reviews an honour guard during a welcoming ceremony at the government house in Bangkok October 24, 2018. — Reuters pic
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, escorted by Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, reviews an honour guard during a welcoming ceremony at the government house in Bangkok October 24, 2018. — Reuters pic

BANGKOK, Oct 24 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has today called on his fellow Asean leaders to leverage on the 600 million population in the region, and to turn it into a bustling domestic market for its members.

The prime minister said the South-east Asian region holds great potential and is simply waiting to be tapped, to become a strong and resilient economic region.

“We believe that Asean is a very strong economic region. We have a population of 600 million people. A big population requires a lot of things.

“We should make our big population as a domestic market for all the countries of Asean.

“We will be discussing this matter in the next Asean leaders meeting. We want to see Asean become a strong regional organisation, and with dedication I think we can do just that,” Dr Mahathir said in a joint press conference with his Thai counterpart, Prayut Chan-o-cha, here.

In his speech earlier, Prayut said that he and Dr Mahathir both felt strongly about the two nations’ cooperation within the Asean framework, and will work closely, especially next year, when Thailand becomes the Asean region chair.

“We want to make sure Asean becomes a force that can rise up to global challenges.

“Tun Dr Mahathir and I are of the view that Asean members today must together, exercise utmost prudence in managing challenges, in order to stay united and maintain Asean’s centrality in our pursuit, together with other countries, of lasting peace, stability and prosperity,” he said.

He also reaffirmed the Thai government’s commitment to working with its Malaysian counterpart.

Dr Mahathir arrived in Bangkok this morning, for a two-day official visit which ends tomorrow.