Fri, Oct 17, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Nations want APEC health body

JOINT PROPOSAL Delegates at the APEC meeting in Bangkok say a task force on health could combat the spread of potentially fatal infectious diseases such as SARS

By Huang Tai-lin  /  STAFF REPORTER , IN BANGKOK

A worker cleans a cannon outside the grounds of the Government House in Bangkok, yesterday, ahead of the arrival of a number of world leaders for this weekend's APEC summit. Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has declared the host nation ``100 percent ready'' and that leaders attending the APEC annual forum were ``more than confident'' they would be safe during their stay.

PHOTO: AFP

Representatives from Taiwan, Thailand and the US attending the APEC Senior Officials Meeting yesterday jointly proposed a health task force be established under the regional economic body.

"In view of the SARS outbreak earlier this spring, the idea of establishing a health task force was jointly proposed by representatives from Taiwan, Thailand and the US in a bid to fight against SARS and other infectious diseases," Vice Minister of Economic Affairs Yiin Chii-ming (尹啟銘) said at a press conference at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center in Bangkok, where the APEC meetings are being held.

SARS killed more than 800 people worldwide and infected some 8,400. According to the World Health Organization, SARS claimed 37 lives in Taiwan and there were 346 suspected cases in the country.

Yin said the idea of a task force was welcomed by other representatives and the proposal would be moved to a higher level for further assessment.

"The proposal needs to go through certain procedures before substantial measures are drawn up such as how the international protocol would be implemented and which APEC members would participate," Yin said.

During the press conference, Yin and Huang Tien-mu (黃天牧), deputy director-general of the Bureau of Monetary Affairs, spoke on issues discussed during bilateral meetings with Chile and Thailand yesterday afternoon.

Yin said that Chile, the host of next year's APEC summit, had expressed its eagerness for Taiwan to participate in the meetings next year.

"Chile told us that one of the things next year's APEC meeting will focus on is small business -- something in which it believes Taiwan has much experience and a subject on which Taiwan can share and contribute," Yin said.

Huang said that both Taiwan and Thailand had agreed to strengthen cooperation on fighting cross border smuggling.

Yin added that a brief greeting was exchanged between Minister of Economic Affairs Lin Yi-fu (林義夫) and Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra when Thaksin passed by Taiwan's booth at the APEC Investment Mart.

When asked about the host country's treatment of Taiwan, Yin said that Thailand has so far treated Taiwan with fairness.

"[The treatment] has been fair so far. We are satisfied," he said.

Against a backdrop of security threats, the Thai government stepped up security measures to ensure the safety of participants in the APEC meeting as well as that of the hordes of journalists present for the event.

The security measures included requiring members of the foreign media traveling to Bangkok to apply for a special visa instead of the usual tourist visa.

In a bid to prevent terrorists from using trash cans as a place to hide weapons or bombs, 19 streets in the area around the summit venue had their garbage cans removed.

In addition to deploying 20,000 troops and police to guard the APEC meetings, the Thai authorities had also chased approximately 10,000 beggars, homeless people and prostitutes off the streets in a bid to give the city a clean and pleasant appearance.

Government agencies, state-owned corporations and schools were granted special holidays from today to Wednesday to minimize traffic jams during the meetings.

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