BY JIM DOOLEY – As catastrophic floods overwhelm Thailand, preparation for such disasters and providing relief in their aftermath were prominently discussed today at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in Honolulu.
“At this moment, there are over 2 million citizens of Thailand who are homeless,” U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye said in an afternoon address.
“This is something horrendous,” Inouye continued.
Flooding “has now extended beyond the borders of Thailand. I’ve been told that it’s now in Laos,” the senator said.
Yingluck Shinawatra, Prime Minister of Thailand, was scheduled to attend the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation conference but cancelled because of the widespread devastation in her country.
Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul is attending APEC and this afternoon expressed his country’s “heartfelt gratitude for the strong support and confidence from abroad.”
He said he is confident the resilience of Thailand’s economy and its citizenry will help the country recover.
“We have tackled this challenge head-on,” said Surapong.
“We are resolved to get back on our feet soon,” the minister said.
United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noted in a speech earlier in the day that the Asia Pacific region has been repeatedly rocked in recent years by natural disasters including tsunamis, earthquakes and floods. She said that “disaster resiliency” will be a key agenda item next week when she accompanies President Barack Obama to the East Asia Summit in Indonesia.
Charles Morrison, president of the East West Center, a non-profit educational institution headquartered on the
Manoa campus of the University of Hawaii, said that ongoing APEC discussions on the subject of “disaster management” may result “in a significant announcement in this area in the next few days.”
Clinton’s speech was delivered at the East West Center in the morning. Morrison chaired an afternoon panel presentation on the benefits of the APEC conference to Hawaii.
Inouye and Surapong’s remarks were delivered at the afternoon conference.
“I just assured the foreign minister that as chairman of the (Senate) Appropriations Committee I would do whatever possible to make certain that proper assistance is rendered to Thailand,” said Inouye.
“At this moment, State Department officials and officials of the Defense Department are conferring with their counterparts all over the world to see what can be done in this crisis,” Inouye said.