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Economic Strength Can Fight Terror, says Thai PM

Thailand's Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra says economic growth and equal opportunity are important ingredients in the fight against terrorism. Mr. Thaksin spoke to VOA before a two-day regional interior ministers' meeting on terrorism that opens Monday in Kuala Lumpur.

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra says economic growth and recovery of Asia's economies are key elements in the fight against terrorism.

In an interview with VOA, Mr. Thaksin said countries should look at narrowing income gaps and providing greater opportunity for their nationals to prevent the underlying social grievances that lend support to terrorist groups.

Thailand recently reached agreement with the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia to cooperate in combating terrorism in the region. Other countries in Southeast Asia may join in the pact.

Mr. Thaksin says security has become a very important issue since the September 11 terror attacks in the United States.

"Every country is concerned about terrorism and every country condemns the past and what happened in the United States, and now we cooperate with each other trying to get rid of all kinds of terrorism from the world," said Prime Minister Thaksin.

Mr. Thaksin says while regional states were concerned about terrorism due to security reasons, there was also the economic impact and causes that lent support to terrorism groups. "Economic growth is part of the way to get rid of terrorism," he stated. "Sometimes the [absence of] economic opportunity is something that creates terrorism indirectly, without knowing it is created. Opportunity is something we should provide, the equal opportunity is very important."

Mr. Thaksin's spoke a day before interior ministers from the Association of South East Asian Nations meet in Malaysia's capital, Kuala Lumpur. During the weekend, Singapore Home Ministry Deputy Secretary Tan Boon Huat proposed that Southeast Asian countries create an anti-terrorism center to improve co-ordination in the regional war against terrorism. He said Singapore would help train security forces in the 10 ASEAN countries.

Terrorism and regional security issues are also on the agenda when ASEAN foreign ministers meet in July with their counterparts from the United States and Europe in Brunei.