On the occasion of HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn’s gracious presided over the launch of the “Forward into the 5th Century of Thailand-UK Relations” on 7 March 2015 at Central Embassy (Ground Floor).
For more than four centuries, the United Kingdom and Thailand have enjoyed a partnership built on the enduring friendship between our peoples, on investment in each other’s economic future, and on our shared values.
The exhibition highlights five themes of the UK and Thailand Relations:
- A celebration of the links between our two constitutional Monarchies
- Important episodes in our shared history
- The trade and investment relationship between Thailand and UK companies and entrepreneurs
- Our collaboration in education and science
- Our enjoyment of each other’s culture and country
We are both constitutional monarchies. Our two monarchs are the longest and second longest-serving in the world. Their Majesties King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Elizabeth II have reigned for more than 60 years, at a time of great change, earning the respect of their subjects and of people across the world.
Ours is a partnership of free exchange of ideas, technology, and culture, dating back over 400 years. In 1610, the Directors of the British East India Company sent their ship “The Globe” to the Kingdom of Siam, bearing a letter from King James I. It landed in 1612, to a warm royal reception. The Thai Side also made an epic voyage of their own, where Thai representatives visited the court of King Charles II in 1684, on their way to King Louis XIV’s court at Versailles.
The fruitful exchange has continued ever since. The year 2015 marks the 160th anniversary of the Bowring Treaty between our two countries. The important elements of the Treaty have stood the test of time: the establishment of a permanent British diplomatic presence in the consulate in Bangkok and a new system of liberalised trade rules. The treaty is regarded by many historians as paving the way for the liberalisation of trade across South East Asia. The creation of the ASEAN Community in 2015 is only the latest step in this process.
Indeed, the most visible sign of our cooperation is in trade, which continues to flourish. We will endeavour to double bilateral trade to £5 billion (253 billion baht) by 2018 and support the free exchange of technology and best business practices through the promotion of two-way investments in the private sector. Already, major Thai corporations such as Sahaviriya Steel Industries, CP Foods and Thai Bev employ well over 1,000 people in the UK. In turn, British companies, such as Tesco, Boots, and Unilever amongst many others, have been successful for decades in Thailand, bringing prosperity to tens of thousands of their Thai employees.
These economic ties are enhanced by our people-to-people contacts. Our people travel frequently between our two countries, enjoying the contrast in our climates, cultural heritage, and landscapes. Nearly 1 million British nationals visit Thailand each year, while in 2013, 70,000 Thais visited the UK, up 17% from the previous year. Many have also decided to make new lives in each others’ countries. The UK is home to the largest Thai expatriate community outside Asia and North America, while over 50,000 British nationals have chosen to make Thailand their permanent home.
For many, the reason for visiting each other’s country is to shop. In 2014, Thai tourists spent over £100 million (5 billion baht) during their visits to the UK. At the same time, major British brands, such as Marks and Spencer, Topshop, and Burberry have become household names in Thailand. British goods are highly valued for their design and quality.
Our people share many cultural passions, most notably Premier League football. Every weekend, a TV audience of over 4.5 billion people around the world gather together to see their heroes battle it out on the pitch. Ofthese billions of fans, Thais are amongst the most passionate. Thailand’s enthusiasm for football now extends to club ownership, such as Leicester City and Reading, and sponsorship, such as Everton, Chelsea and Manchester United.
Alongside football, we have also enjoyed and appreciated other aspects of our cultures. King Rama VI translated three plays by Shakespeare into lyrical Thai and created Thailand’s first consulting detective, Nai Thong-In, modelled on Sherlock Holmes. In the UK, it is now possible to visit Thai temples as far North as Edinburgh and as far South as Petersfield in Hampshire, while Thai cuisine has become a popular fare across the UK, alongside well-established favourites such as Chinese and Indian cuisine. Along with these exchanges in goods and cultural enjoyment, we also enjoy the free exchange of ideas through our strong education ties. Thais are now among the top 10 largest student populations in the UK, with over 8,000 aspiring young people building their careers in many of the UK’s world-class universities, colleges, and schools.
Looking to the future, Thai-British collaboration also extends to exploring new frontiers in science and innovation. The UK and Thailand research communities will each invest up to £2 million (100 million baht) per annum for five years in joint projects through the Newton Fund, bringing innovative solutions to common problems, to the lasting benefit of both our peoples.
Our partnership has spanned four centuries. As we embark on our fifth century together, we will continue to do so in the spirit of trust and friendship, our feet firm on the strong foundations of our shared history, and our eyes fixed on the brilliant centuries to come.
This exhibition has been jointly curated by the British Embassy Bangkok, the British Council Bangkok and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand. It runs from 7- 16 March, on the ground floor of Central Embassy.
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