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Thailand, Vietnam Vow to Work Closer to Combat Bird Flu - 2004-02-21


Thailand and Vietnam have wrapped up a two-day joint cabinet meeting Saturday pledging to work closer to fight the bird flu virus, which has killed 22 people and devastated the poultry business in both countries. This was the first time Thailand and Vietnam held a joint cabinet meeting, which included their prime ministers, Thailand's Thaksin Shinawatra and Vietnam's Phan Van Khai.

The two-day meeting in Vietnam's central city of Denang and Thailand's northeastern Nakhon Phanom Province focused ways to contain the bird flu outbreak.

The H5N1 virus has been transmitted to humans and these are the only two nations to report human deaths from the disease. Thailand and Vietnam agreed Saturday to set up joint research initiatives and surveillance systems to better fight the virus. Thai Foreign Ministry Spokesman Sihasak Phuangketkeow. "I think what has been agreed upon bilaterally between Vietnam and Thailand is in keeping with what was decided at the ministerial meeting and I think it's very important for the two countries and countries in the region to work together to contain the bird flu," he said. The World Health Organization has repeatedly warned that Asian nations have not done enough to contain the bird flu outbreak, which began late last year.

The WHO is now investigating the flu being transmitted to other mammals in Thailand, including domestic house cats.

Thai and Vietnamese ministers also discussed enhanced cooperation in security, trade, investment and transnational crime.

Thai Spokesman Sihasak says the meeting provided both countries with a chance to get to know each other on a more personal level to improve future cooperation. "We attach importance to our relations with all our neighboring countries and the relationship is comprehensive in nature," said Sihasak Phuangketkeow. "And we believe that we have to work together in all areas of cooperation - economic, trade, investment, transportation links, infrastructure, environment, people-to-people ties." Thailand has held similar joint cabinet meetings over the past year with Malaysia, Singapore, and Cambodia and plans are under way for one with Laos.

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