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Meeting Highlights Economic "Dynamism" of Southeast Asia
The World Economic Forum is an independent organization. Its job is to help businesses, governments and civil society groups find ways to work together to improve the world. The twenty-first World Economic Forum on East Asia recently took place in Thailand. Organizers wanted to bring attention to development in Southeast Asia. The event received extra attention because of the presence of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese opposition leader and a newly elected member of parliament. She traveled to Bangkok in her first foreign trip in over twenty years. Burmese President Thein Sein cancelled his appearance at the meeting shortly after her travel plans were announced.
Klaus Schwab started what came to be called the World Economic Forum and serves as its executive chairman. In opening comments, he praised the growing influence of Southeast Asian nations in the world economy and in political issues. In his words, "When you look at the ASEAN region, you feel that here you have a region which is full of dynamism." He said the region "becomes more and more a crucial factor in the world economic and world political context." Several government leaders were in Bangkok for the meeting. They included the president of Indonesia, the prime minister of Vietnam and the prime minister of Thailand. The forum is a place to discuss issues affecting the ten members of ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
In a speech, Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra noted threats like the debt crisis in Europe and climate change. But she also pointed to technological progress, democratic reforms and new centers of economic growth as signs of hope. ASEAN nations are becoming increasingly important in the world economy. As a group, their economic activity is nearing two trillion dollars. Southeast Asian economies are expected to grow more than five percent this year. That rate is higher than Europe or North America.
World Trade Organization Director-General Pascal Lamy also attended the meetings. He said Southeast Asia is doing better than other areas now, but he warned that a slowing world economy could create problems. He said he would expect the region to be more affected in the two or three years to come than it has been so far.
For VOA Special English, I'm Alex Villarreal. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 01Jun2012)