Sofitel Centara Grand Ladprao Hotel, Bangkok, 14 November 2007
Mr. Arnold Foote, President of the World Federation of Consuls,
Dr. Sribhumi Sukhanetr, Dean of the Honorary Consular Corps in Thailand,
Dr. Virachai Techavijit, President of the East Asia Regional Committee of the World Federation of Consuls,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is both an honour and a pleasure for me to preside over the Opening Ceremony of the First East Asia Regional Conference of the World Federation of Consuls. On behalf of the Royal Thai Government, I wish to extend to you a very warm welcome to Bangkok.
I have been informed that the World Federation of Consuls has convened regular meetings of the international Consular Corps in all corners of the globe since its establishment in 1982. With this in mind, I would like to express my appreciation to the Federation for organizing this important event in Bangkok this year. I am also pleased to learn that the World Consular Fair will be held here for the first time following your Conference. This is a commendable initiative and I am sure that the Fair will do much to promote business contacts and networking between our peoples. And as this year is the Federation’s 25th Anniversary, please accept my congratulations on this milestone. May you celebrate many more happy anniversaries.
As you know, here in Thailand we are celebrating an auspicious occasion of our own – the 80th Birthday Anniversary of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Throughout his reign, His Majesty has made countless contributions to improving the livelihood of the Thai people and the development of the country. Projects initiated by His Majesty have benefited and touched the Thai people in so many ways. With this in mind, I am very happy that you have been able to join us during our celebrations.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Amidst the many changes and transformations that Thailand has undergone over the years, one constant has been our openness to the world. We have always been forthcoming to our friends regarding issues facing our country. So, allow me to say a few words on the political situation in Thailand.
In view of the challenges facing the Thai people since September 2006, the past year has not been an easy one. With its limited timeframe, this Government has focused its agenda on political reform in order to strengthen Thailand’s democratic governance and create confidence both at the national and international levels. I am happy to say that, thus far, we have achieved what we set out in our timeline to return the country to full parliamentary democracy.
We have made progress in strengthening democracy and promoting reconciliation. We have upheld the rule of law, good governance and civil rights and liberties. The new Constitution was endorsed in a national referendum held on 19 August 2007. By placing importance on moral and ethical values in government, the new Constitution ensures that transparency and the interests and welfare of the people will receive utmost attention by future political leaders.
Last month saw the entry into force of the Royal Decree setting 23 December 2007 as the date for the general elections. The Government and the Election Commission are now working hard to ensure that the people are informed and that the elections are free and fair. And as you can see and hear for yourselves, the political parties’ election campaigns are as visible and loud as ever. So, I am confident that our original timeline will also apply to the appointment of a new Prime Minister by February 2008.
And here, I wish to take this opportunity to thank the Consular Corps for your hard work over the past months in promoting a better understanding of Thailand’s political situation. Your help in explaining to your respective countries the efforts of the Thai Government to restore and strengthen democracy has been most valuable. Through your reports, you have helped to foster confidence in Thailand and enabled us to move forward.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Another priority of this Government has been to ensure continued development and healthy economic growth. The financial crisis of ten years ago deeply affected all levels of Thai society. But we have learnt from our past mistakes. Ten years on, Thailand has emerged with greater strength and renewed vigour. Amidst current concerns over oil prices and sub-prime problems in the US, we are now pursuing sustained and balanced economic development guided by His Majesty the King’s “Sufficiency Economy” philosophy.
With moderation as the overriding principle, this philosophy helps us to deal with the challenges of a globalized world in which socio-economic, environmental and cultural changes take place at great intensity and speed. In response to these challenges, it recommends that we take a balanced approach combining patience, perseverance, diligence, wisdom and prudence. In short, we view it as a Thai model of sustainability.
As such, the philosophy has prompted my Government to introduce development strategies based on sound macroeconomic discipline as well as stable growth and an equitable sharing of benefits. For I believe that economic progress should be measured not only in terms of numbers, but also in terms of the quality of life attained. Growth should embrace not only our capacity to be competitive, but also social justice and contentment. Thus the future dynamism of the Thai economy will rest on its strength to cope with economic crises that may arise, as well as its ability to ensure that the Thai people benefit from the opportunities of globalization.
May I say that the Consular Corps has been a key part of our efforts to spread the word on the “Sufficiency Economy” philosophy to your respective countries while, at the same time, reaffirming Thailand’s full commitment to an open market economy, one that is a friendly base for foreign investment. We do appreciate your contributions in helping your governments and peoples better understand Thailand’s role in the global economy and our strong economic fundamentals.
Indeed, while global developments may have slowed down our GDP growth somewhat, export value is up 16.1% this year. The total value of FDI is also up, as are our foreign exchange reserves which now stand at 80 billion US Dollars. We are making long-term investments in infrastructure and energy. And we will continue to improve conditions for trade and investment. With this in mind, I firmly believe that the partnership and cooperation between Thailand and your countries will grow from strength to strength.
Meanwhile, Asia as a whole is evolving rapidly. This presents both opportunities and challenges. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, is repositioning itself so that it could be both a driving force for a strengthened Asia and a beneficiary of the region’s rise. Now in its 40th year, ASEAN is moving towards the establishment of an ASEAN Community by the year 2015. Next week, I will be joining my regional colleagues in signing the ASEAN Charter in Singapore. As ASEAN is transformed by the Charter into an organization that is more effective and more relevant to its peoples and to the changing times, Thailand pledges to play an active role in this process.
Indeed, Thailand not only intends to continue playing its part in the development of ASEAN and our region, but also to expand its cooperation with the international community, particularly through the United Nations. We hope to share our experience in people-centered development with our partners across the globe. For as the global community becomes increasingly inter-connected, we do believe that all nations, big and small, have a role and responsibility to forge partnerships to address the common challenges facing humankind.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This Conference marks a gathering of key players from a wide range of sectors including the Consular and Diplomatic Corps, business and the media. We look to you as “Friends of Thailand.” I am confident that your Conference and the international fair that follows will generate opportunities for business, tourism and cultural cooperation as well as establish lasting friendships. So, I wish you all every success in your efforts and in future endeavours.
I thank you for your attention.