Duterte and junta vow to tackle drugs

Bangkok’s Soi Cowboy. Drug and human trafficking remains a huge issue in Thailand.

Thailand’s prime minister and the Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte have agreed to strengthen military ties and cooperate to tackle international criminality and the drugs trade and people trafficking.

The Thai junta leader, Prayuth Chan-ocha, said after his meeting with the bombastic president: “On the security matters, Thailand and the Philippines are willing to work together in tightening the military ties of both countries as we are concerned about the challenges in addressing terrorism and all forms of transnational crimes.”

They discussed the drugs trade with Duterte referring to his crackdown in which more than 8,000 alleged drug users and dealers have been killed since he took office last year.

Manila holds the Asean chair this year, with Duterte emphasising the need for the 10 members to complete the framework of a code of conduct to ensure all nations follow legal and diplomatic processes when addressing the South China Sea dispute. The loose-tongued Duterte is an odd champion of diplomatic niceties.

Manila would file a condemnation of China after it announced preparatory work for an environmental monitoring station on a disputed shoal in the South China Sea, a cabinet source said.

China has put missiles and radar on artificially extended islands through much of the South China Sea.

Thailand has no territorial claim in the disputed region, but has increasingly close ties to Beijing and could potentially influence the issue.

The Philippines has also signed a series of agricultural deals with Thailand, three months before it ends a quantitative restriction on rice imports under a World Trade Organisation deal.

The agricultural agreements would cover exchanges of best practices in irrigation, livestock and fisheries, and technology for soil and water conservation, said Duterte, 71, after meeting Prayut.

“The Philippines and Thailand have vibrant economic relations with a trade value of almost US$8 billion in 2016. We have yet to reach the limit of our potentials. That is why we also recognise the importance of cooperation in agriculture … our agricultural sector should drive national growth,” Duterte said.

Thailand is one of the main Philippine sources of imported rice. In December, the National Food Authority said private traders would import 284,780 tonnes of Thai rice.

In 2016, Manila’s agriculture minister Emmanuel Pinol said he would need two years to strengthen the archipelago’s rice sector to compete with Vietnam and Thailand.

Duterte also signed deals on tourism, science and technology.

Picture credit: Flickr