Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed Monday in Tokyo to further develop the strategic partnership between their nations, pledging to deepen economic cooperation to develop Thailand’s railway networks and promote a special economic zone in Southeast Asia.

“It was very significant that we were able to confirm cooperation in the development of railway transport networks in Thailand and promotion of the Dawei Special Economic Zones project in Myanmar,” Abe said at a joint news conference.

Thailand and Myanmar are jointly pursuing the Dawei SEZ project, which aims to attract investment to a 20,000-hectare production and distribution base.

Meanwhile Prayuth, a former army chief who took power after a military coup last May, stressed that Thailand will return to democracy soon, saying a new constitution will be drafted as rapidly as possible and a general election will be held at the end of this year or early next year.

“Prime Minister Prayuth is committed to restoring Thailand’s democracy,” Abe said. “Japan strongly hopes that (Thailand) will achieve national reconciliation and restore democracy at the earliest possible date.”

According to a joint statement, Abe and Prayuth “affirmed the importance of promoting the Dawei SEZ project through the trilateral consultation among Japan, Thailand and Myanmar.”

Prior to their joint news conference, the transport ministries of the two countries signed a “Memorandum of Intent on Cooperation of the Railway Sector.”

Prayuth said the purpose of his visit to Japan was to emphasize the importance of the bilateral strategic partnership in the Mekong region.

“What was most important in the talks (with Abe) was that Japan perceived Thailand as an engine to promote development in the region and will pursue cooperation with Thailand,” Prayuth said, adding that special economic zones will offer huge business opportunities for Japanese firms.

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