|Malaysian Ambassador to Vietnam Dato' Tan Yang Thai (Photo: Malaysian Embassy in Vietnam)
Reporter: The year 2023 marks the 50th anniversary of Vietnam – Malaysia diplomatic relations (March 30, 1973 - March 30, 2023), Could you review the main achievements the two countries made in recent times?
Malaysian Ambassador Dato' Tan Yang Thai: Malaysia values its strong and substantive relations with Vietnam and is committed to develop and expand the relations further. The bilateral relations are strengthened through promoting and conducting regular high level engagements, and strengthening existing bilateral cooperation mechanisms, including through working closely together for the effective implementation of previously signed agreements. Last year the Prime Minister of Malaysia Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim carried out an official visit to Vietnam in July and had fruitful meetings with the top four leaders of Vietnam. This meeting closely followed a visit by the then Foreign Minister of Malaysia, Dato’ Seri Zambry Abdul Kadir who co-chaired the 7th Session of the Joint Committee on Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation with his counterpart – H.E. Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son.
Another recent significant development was the visit by the then Minister of Defence of Malaysia, Dato’ Seri Utama Haji Mohamad Haji Hasan to Vietnam in December last year, during which MoU on Defence Cooperation between Malaysia and Vietnam was renewed.
It is also important that Malaysia – Vietnam relations are bolstered through strong and sustainable two-way trade. As of November 2023, Malaysia was Vietnam’s 10th largest trading partner. Within ASEAN, Malaysia was Vietnam’s 3rd largest trading partner. In terms of investment, Malaysia was the 11th largest investor in Vietnam with a registered capital of USD 422.65 million, and 34 newly registered projects. Accumulated investments from Malaysian investors were valued at USD13.1 billion with 731 registered projects.
Reporter: During your term, how will you promote your role as a bridge to promote the further development of the Vietnam - Malaysia relationship, especially in fields where the two countries have potential and strengths such as agriculture, Halal industry development, education and training, digital transformation, digital security, science and technology?
Malaysian Ambassador Dato' Tan Yang Thai: We are working hard to increase the visits, meetings and negotiations at the working levels between the two countries, so as to ensure meaningful and tangible progress forward. We have seen some developments with regards to cooperation in halal industry development and this will be an area that we will continue to focus on. I am a firm believer in people-to-people engagement as an important channel in strengthening bilateral ties, especially through such platforms as training, culture and education. As part of my role here, I am keen to see an increase in the number of Vietnamese students studying in Malaysia for their tertiary education. Malaysia offers exceptional value to Vietnamese students with affordable tuition, safe and comfortable living conditions that’s not too far away from home, and the possibility of pursuing twinning programmes with universities in other countries.
We have also welcomed Vietnam officers participating in programmes conducted under the Malaysian Technical Cooperation Programme (MTCP). Cumulatively, over a thousand Vietnamese officers have gone through courses offered under the Programme since it was established in 1991. We’ve also seen an increase in the number of Vietnamese tourists visiting Malaysia, with the most visited states including Kuala Lumpur, Melaka, Penang, Ipoh, Johor and Sabah. In my role as Ambassador, I’m interested in increasing participation in the MTCP as well as increasing the number of Vietnamese tourists to Malaysia.
Reporter: In July 2023, Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim and his spouse paid an official visit to Vietnam, marking Prime Minister Ibrahim's first official visit to Vietnam since he took the office. How do you asses the importance of this event in creating new momentum for developing the strategic partnership between Vietnam and Malaysia?
Malaysian Ambassador Dato' Tan Yang Thai: I believe that the visit was critically important. The visit was the maiden visit of Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim to Vietnam since coming into office, and to have carried out the visit within his first year in office, during a milestone year of 50 years of bilateral relations, was a testament to the importance Malaysia places on its relations with Vietnam, and the commitment to developing the partnership further. As we gear up towards the 10th anniversary of the Strategic Partnership between Malaysia and Vietnam in 2025, the visit created impetus for us to work even harder on the areas of cooperation identified in the Plan of Action 2021-2025, before its scheduled review next year. During the Prime Minister’s visit, he had met with the four pillars of Vietnamese leadership, participated in a business forum attended by both Malaysian and Vietnam businesses as well as met with the Malaysian diaspora here in Hanoi and beyond, all important activities that contributed to the strengthening of relations.
Reporter: Besides bilateral cooperation, how should Vietnam and Malaysia promote their roles in ASEAN to strengthen solidarity and promote ASEAN’s central role, join hands to build a strong and prosperous ASEAN community?
Malaysian Ambassador Dato' Tan Yang Thai: Malaysia had supported Vietnam joining ASEAN, which was finally realised 1995. In 2025, it will be 30 years since Vietnam joined ASEAN, and Malaysia will also be assuming the ASEAN Chairmanship. Throughout the years, Malaysia has valued Vietnam as a positive and actively contributing partner in efforts to strengthen ASEAN solidarity, promote ASEAN centrality and committed to building a strong and prosperous ASEAN Community. Both Malaysia and Vietnam live together in a region that offers many opportunities for its people, but also comes with many challenges. In that sense, it is true that beyond bilateral mechanisms, ASEAN offers a platform at the regional level that may be leveraged for the good of the Member States. It is vital that ASEAN Member States continue to work together, and play their part in pursuit of this objective.
Reporter: After nearly one year of serving as the Malaysian Ambassador in Vietnam, what is your impression of the development of the country and people of Vietnam? On the occasion of the Lunar New Year of the Dragon 2024, what message do you want to send to readers of the Communist Party of Vietnam Online Newspaper?
Malaysian Ambassador Dato' Tan Yang Thai: I am certainly impressed with the rate of growth and development that Vietnam has achieved over the years, and I think it is important to also appreciate the many opportunities for even further progress. I admire the Vietnamese for their grit and resilience, as well as the patriotism and obvious love they have for their country. On the occasion of the Lunar New Year of the Dragon 2024, I would like to wish all the readers a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year! May Malaysia – Vietnam relations grow even closer and stronger in the Year of the Dragon!
Reporter: Thank you very much!