THAILAND and Vietnam hailed a new era in relations after a whirlwind four-hour visit to Hanoi by new Thai Prime Minister Banharn Silpa-archa. Rising floodwaters in Bangkok delayed Mr Banharn for several hours but he was able to hold discussions with Vietnamese counterpart Vo Van Kiet and other leaders late on Sunday. Vietnam's state press said the visit was enough to signal change in a traditionally frosty relationship. Both leaders are reportedly working for closer ties on economic, trade and diplomatic fronts while pledging to speedily resolve outstanding disputes. Military ties are also growing. In a courtesy call on Communist Party General Secretary Do Muoi, Mr Banharn said he was considering granting Vietnamese residents Thai national identity cards to ease their settlement - a move backed by Hanoi. 'Close ties will contribute to the benefit of both peoples and the development and stability of the region,' the Communist Party daily Nhan Dan stated. The visit follows Vietnam's historic membership of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in July, a traditionally anti-communist grouping of which Thailand was a founder member. Weeks before membership naval patrol boats clashed in disputed waters of the Gulf of Thailand as a routine illegal fishing prosecution degenerated into violence. Hanoi and Bangkok quickly pledged peace while fishing boundaries are settled. Mr Banharn also headed a ground-breaking ceremony for a major Thai hotel development in central Hanoi.