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Thailand Aims to Turn the Group's Meetings into a Model of Sustainability

BANGKOK, June 10, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- As the 2019 Chairman of ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Kingdom of Thailand is rallying support for a raft of initiatives to promote better stewardship of our planet and its resources. Thailand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs states that commitment starts with the approach to organizing ASEAN's meetings.

Thailand will host over 250 meetings among the ten Member States and Dialogue Partners. As a core part of "Advancing Partnership for Sustainability" -- the theme Thailand has chosen for its term as Chairman -- Thailand will apply sustainable practices wherever and whenever possible.

"The Thai people have felt the impacts of climate change and environmental destruction, and they are demanding that leaders take action," says Minister of Foreign Affairs Don Pramudwinai.

Last June 2018, for many Thai people, those impacts became personal. That's when a pilot whale washed up on a southern beach. Soon afterward it was discovered that the whale had starved to death because it had swallowed so many plastic bags and debris that it could no longer digest food. Since then, whales have suffered similar fates on the shores of Indonesia, the Philippines, and other countries.

"Even my children were heartbroken about the whale," said Tharit Charungvat of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Tharit heads the task force organizing the seven most important ASEAN meetings, including the June summit of leaders, and is determined to set new standards for sustainability. The task force is also advising other ministries on how to make their meetings green.

It starts with choosing venues rated high for sustainable practices by the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau. It also means eliminating single-use plastics, using recycled materials, piloting new bio-materials, and taking measures to reduce carbon footprints. "We won't accept plastic bottles for water, only glass,'' Tharit says.

While in some cases it is unavoidable to use materials that are not environmentally friendly, the ministry is striving to reduce their use as much as possible. Mirroring a trend in Thai business and society, the task force is applying the 3Rs concept of the "circular economy" to their approach: reduce, recycle, and reuse.

To achieve its goals, the ministry is marshaling private-sector support. PTT Global Chemical is providing utensils made from biodegradable plastics as well as using recycled plastics to weave fabrics for conference bags given to delegates as gifts.

Most paper products at the meetings, such as notebooks, are made from recycled paper courtesy of SCG, Thailand's building materials conglomerate. SCG has also made many of the chairs, tables, podiums, desks, bookshelves, and other furniture from recycled paper. The furniture will be donated to schools when the meetings conclude.  Moreover, SCG supports food packages made from food-grade paper to reduce the use of single-used plastics.

To reduce the plastic debris even further, MQDC, a research-oriented global property developer, transforms vinyl signboards, unavoidably used in some conferences, into fashionable shopping bags.

Tech developers have helped design downloadable applications to deliver all documents, presentations, and materials to attendees through online channels instead of the printed page.

BMW Thailand is making hybrid vehicles available to transport delegates. As for delegates flying in and out of Thailand, Tharit acknowledges that some things remain beyond the Kingdom's control. However, Thailand has carbon credits to offset those emissions until new solutions are created.

And the efforts don't end with the summit itself. Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB), will monitor and evaluate the results, and provide recommendations for improvement on ways conferences could be hosted in Thailand. They can also be used as benchmarks to measure progress.

Bringing the public on board is also essential. Retail giant Central Group is publicising ASEAN's steps towards sustainability to consumers. The Government Savings Bank is developing media to teach children in remote schools how they can adopt sustainable practices in their communities.

Before the first whale perished, alarm about environmental destruction had already been rising in Thailand. Campaigns for change were already gathering steam. Now, they are gaining even greater momentum. "The whales did not die in vain," Tharit said. "They have warned us to take serious actions and on higher gear."

As chair of ASEAN, Thailand is committed to forging a true spirit of partnership to create a sustainable world.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Thailand
Tel: +662-203-5000 ext. 22043

Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Thailand