NATIONAL

‘Thailand to cultivate late king’s fraternity with Korea’

By Joel Lee

“Through thousands of development projects he initiated over his lifetime, his majesty oversaw a period of profound social, economic and developmental transformations across Thailand.”

  • Published : Dec 4, 2017 - 17:43
  • Updated : Dec 4, 2017 - 17:44
The Royal Thai Embassy on Friday marked Father’s Day, a national celebration of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s birthday.

Thai citizens from all walks of life gather together to show their “profound respect” for the monarch who passed away over a year ago, said Thai Ambassador to Korea Sarun Charoensuwan. He added that Bhumibol (Dec. 5, 1927-Oct. 13, 2016) worked tirelessly to uplift Thai people’s lives, particularly those on the bottom rungs of society, after he ascended to the throne in 1946.

“Through thousands of development projects he initiated over his lifetime, his majesty oversaw a period of profound social, economic and developmental transformations across Thailand. He helped the rural people become self-reliant and escape their poverty,” the envoy said in a speech at a reception in Seoul on Friday.

“His majesty developed the philosophy of ‘sufficiency economy,’ which underlines the middle path as an overriding principle of appropriate conduct, moderation and wisdom.”

Thai Ambassador to Korea Sarun Charoensuwan (Joel Lee/The Korea Herald)

The philosophy -- prioritizing the pursuit of all national stakeholders’ interests over a long time span -- has been elaborated upon by Thai academics, promoted by the government and applied to over 23,000 villages throughout the country. Bangkok has utilized the philosophy over the last 40 years to overcome various national crises and advance in line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, the envoy explained.

Nothing that the late monarch’s birthday also coincides with the UN-designated World Soil Day -- designed to raise awareness on soil’s importance in agriculture, development, nutrition and food security around the world -- Charoensuwan said Thailand remembers Bhumibol’s dedication to national agricultural development and agrarian livelihood as the economy’s backbone.

“With the passing of our late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Thailand now has His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun, the late king’s son who assumed his throne on Dec. 1 last year,” the diplomat said. “The monarchy will remain an important and inseparable part of our country and people, and continue to serve as an institution keeping them together.”

Turning to relations with Korea, he said “our strong bond was forged through heroic sacrifices of our brave servicemen and women who fought side by side with Korean troops during the Korean War.”

When North Korea invaded the South in 1950 with the aim of communizing it, Thailand was one of 21 countries that responded to the United Nations’ call to send troops to the peninsula. Thailand -- under the reign of King Bhumibol -- was the second after the United States to declare its participation, said Rep. Park Joo-sun, deputy speaker of the National Assembly, in a speech. 

Thai Ambassador to Korea Sarun Charoensuwan (left) and Rep. Park Joo-sun (Joel Lee/The Korea Herald)

“It is my belief that his majesty’s resolution and the noble sacrifices of Thai soldiers served as a foundation on which my country achieved its rapid industrialization and democratization,” Park stressed, adding he attended the late king’s cremation ceremony in Bangkok on Oct. 26 as Korean President Moon Jae-in’s special envoy.

The Royal Thai Expeditionary Forces to Korea, the 21st Combined Regiment, dispatched 11,786 troops to the war, with 136 dying as casualties. They, together with the Royal Thai Navy and Air Force, engaged in major battles that helped determine the fratricidal conflict’s outcome, including the battle of the Pork Chop Hill and Third Battle of Seoul.

“What had started as a military and security cooperation between our countries quickly expanded to encompass all-inclusive ties, eventually maturing into a strategic partnership,” said Charoensuwan. “Thailand will continue its role helping maintain peace and security in the Korean Peninsula by strictly implementing relevant UN Security Council resolutions.”

On the trade side, Korea continues to be one of Thailand’s top trading partners, underscored the ambassador. The bilateral trade turnover reached $10 billion from January through October, a 14 percent on-year uptick. Korea is the sixth-largest foreign investor in Thailand, led by global conglomerates like Samsung, LG and Posco that have plowed vast capital into Thailand’s manufacturing industry.

Foreign ambassadors at the Father's Day reception organized by the Royal Thai Embassy in Seoul on Dec. 1 (Joel Lee/The Korea Herald)

Highlighting that Seoul and Bangkok are stepping up collaboration in railway and water management, the envoy said Thailand will progressively contribute to regional integration through various infrastructure, logistics and social connectivity projects.

Bangkok has embarked on a policy of nationwide economic overhaul known as “Thailand 4.0,” aiming at injecting innovation, knowledge, technology and creativity into its economy and escaping the “middle income trap.”

“To realize all this, we hope to learn from Korea’s expertise and best practices in developing its infrastructure, smart cities, and innovative research and development capacities, especially the digital technology, information communications technology, Internet of Things and biotech,” according to the diplomat.

On the tourism front, nearly 1.7 million Koreans are expected to travel to Thailand this year, while nearly 500,000 Thai tourists are forecast to visit Korea.

The two nations will celebrate the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations next year. President Moon’s pivot toward the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, as envisioned in his “New South Policy,” will give an additional impetus to the prospering two-way ties, underlined Charoensuwan.

By Joel Lee (joel@heraldcorp.com) 

ASEAN ambassadors at the Father's Day reception organized by the Royal Thai Embassy in Seoul on Dec. 1 (Joel Lee/The Korea Herald)