Apr. 8, 2016

Dr. Ng Eng Hen


Dr. Ng Eng Hen

Minister of Defense, Singapore

"Defence relations between Singapore and Thailand are close and long standing."


A member of the governing People's Action Party (PAP), Dr. Ng Eng Hen has been the Minister for Defense since 2011. He previously served as the Minister for Manpower from 2004 to 2008 and Minister for Education from 2008 to 2011, as well as the Leader of the House in Parliament from 2011 to 2015. He has been a Member of Parliament representing the Bishan-Toa Payoh Group Representation Constituency (GRC) since 2001.

What were the outcomes from your recent meeting with Thai Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha?

I am pleased to have met Prime Minister Prayut, as well as my counterpart Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Gen. Prawit Wongsuwon at my last visit to Thailand in November 2015. These were meetings between old friends—PM Prayuthad attended Singapore's 50th National Day Parade celebrations in August 2015, as well as Singapore's founder father Mr. Lee Kuan Yew's funeral service in March 2015. Besides thanking Thailand for their friendship, another objective for my visit was also to reaffirm the excellent bilateral relationship between both countries. Defence is a key pillar of this bilateral relationship. We value our defence relations with Thailand. We have a long history of military exercises and joint training together, between armies, navies, and air forces. We agreed that both countries share the same desire to further strengthen our defence relationship so as to foster mutual understanding and interoperability between both armed forces. Singapore sees Thailand as a critical and valuable player in ASEAN for peace and stability in the region. I discussed regional and international security developments with PM Prayut and DPM Prawit, where we agreed on the need for open, inclusive, and robust regional security architecture. As fellow members of ASEAN, we share similar perspectives on the security issues confronting our region. Terrorism is one common transnational threat that both countries face, and one that necessitates cooperation from our key partners in the region. When I spoke to PM Prayut, DPM Prawit and the senior military leadership, we all agreed that no one country has the resources to address these threats alone. Instead, it is important for countries to undertake practical cooperative activities that will build mutual trust and confidence, as well as enhance our capabilities to address these threats. I am glad that Thailand has pledged assets and troops to the upcoming ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting (ADMM)-Plus Maritime Security & Counter-terrorism Exercise that will be held in May 2016.

How would you assess the bilateral defence relationship between Singapore and Thailand?

Defence relations between Singapore and Thailand are close and long standing. This is reflected in the frequent exchange of high-level visits, as well as military exercises and professional interactions across all three Services. Most recently, our air forces concluded the trilateral exercise, Ex Cope Tiger, with the US in March 2016, and both armies conducted Ex Kocha Singa in February 2016. We also work together at multilateral events like the ADMM, ADMM-Plus, and the Shangri-la Dialogue (SLD).

What are your expectations for bilateral defence ties between Thailand and Singapore in the year ahead?

Just last year we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. We have a very good defence relationship, which I am confident will continue. In addition, we are always striving to do more to strengthen the relationship and people-to-people ties of both armed forces. I would also like to take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation for Thailand's strong support for the SAF's training in Thailand for many years. I am also very appreciative of Thailand's strong support for Singapore-hosted multilateral events like Singapore Airshow and SLD, and I hope Thailand would continue this for SLD16, which will celebrate its 15th anniversary.

In your view, what impact will the opening of the ASEAN Economic Community have on defence cooperation and regional security?

The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) aims to build closer economic ties amongst the 10 ASEAN member states. This complements the existing efforts made by the defence establishments—under the ADMM framework—to foster greater trust and mutual understanding in the region.