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People-to-people ties
By Apirat Sugondhabhirom - Consul General of Thailand to HCMC
Sunday,  Mar 8, 2020,15:47 (GMT+7)

People-to-people ties

By Apirat Sugondhabhirom - Consul General of Thailand to HCMC

The cherry tree planted by HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand in the backyard of the Consulate General

Thai Consulate General celebrates 27 years of presence in HCMC

On Sunday, February 23, 2020, a small, internal celebration was held at the compound of the 60-plus-year-old Art Deco buildings at 77 Tran Quoc Thao Street, District 3, HCMC—the location of the Royal Thai Consulate General.

The event was held to mark the 27th anniversary of the formal opening of the Consulate General at this current office, with a flag-raising ceremony, Buddhist religious rite, followed by a communal lunch and a group photo opportunity.

It is an honour for me to host this event, to which my team at the Consulate General, officers of other agencies under “Team Thailand” in HCMC, Thai and Vietnamese Buddhist monks, representatives of the Thai Business (Vietnam) Association, and some members of the Thai community in HCMC, especially those senior members who have been around since the opening of the Consulate General, attended. It is even more meaningful to me as the event was held close to my own first anniversary of arrival in HCMC to assume my responsibility as a Thai Consul General, on February 15, 2019. Had it not been for the Covid-19 situation, I would have organized a bigger gathering, to also express my thanks to all friends here who have kindly supported me and the works of the Consulate General.

I am the ninth Consul General of Thailand here. The Thai Government opened the Royal Thai Consulate General in HCMC in 1992, some years after the opening of the Royal Thai Embassy in Hanoi in 1978 and the establishment of diplomatic relations between Thailand and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in 1976.

In the beginning, the Thai Government used some rooms in Rex Hotel in District 1 as temporary office while renovation works were going on at the present building of the Consulate General, which was the former Embassy of Thailand in Saigon before 1975.

A photo of the Thai Consulate General and its staff

After successful negotiations between the two governments, in 1993 the Thai Consulate General moved into its present premises. On February 23, 1993, Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand, during her first official visit to Vietnam at the invitation of Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet, presided over the opening ceremony of the renovated Consulate building, and the Thai national flag was raised at the current premises for the first time in 18 years, signifying the formal inauguration of the office of the Consulate General. She also planted the tropical cherry tree (acerola cherry, or “Sơ ri” in Vietnamese) in the backyard, which still stands today, and a sapling of which was presented by the Consulate General to the University of Social Sciences and Humanities (USSH)—Thu Duc Campus, last December, as a contribution to the “Thai Garden” at USSH.

The opening of the Royal Thai Consulate General here, with jurisdiction covering 22 provinces and cities in Central and Southern Vietnam, was only one of the milestones of Thailand-Vietnam friendship. Since 1993 we have seen rapid growth of the Vietnamese economy and the greater interest of Thai businesses in trading with and investing in Vietnam, thus a lot of Thai companies have come to make HCMC their second home. Regionally speaking, Vietnam has joined Thailand and others to became a full member of ASEAN in 1995, and has since played importance roles in the ASEAN community, including the role of ASEAN Chair in 2010 and again in this year. Bilaterally, in December 1998 President Tran Duc Luong made the first State Visit to Thailand as guest of His Late Majesty King Bhumibhol Adulyadej.  In June 2013, the two countries upgraded their relationship to be that of “Strategic Partnership” and in July 2015 it was further elevated to be the “Strengthened Strategic Partnership”. In the same year, Bangkok and HCMC entered in to sister-city relations. In 2016, the two countries celebrated the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations, and a “Thai Festival” was held at the September 23 Park in HCMC.

People-to-people ties are also in bloom, with exchanges of visits of public administrators, scholars, youths, students, cultural troupes, start-up entrepreneurs, and tourists. Lately, I was honoured to be able to host a dinner for Mr. Tran Luu Quang, permanent Deputy Secretary of the HCMC Party Committee, and his delegation, before his visit to Bangkok where he met leaders of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration last November.

Looking back, I realize that we have gone so far in our journey together in the path of amity, in the context of overall Thailand-Vietnam cooperation. I am certain that the strong friendship between HCMC and Thailand, based on the foundation laid decades ago and fostered by enthusiasm of both sides, shall continue to grow, like the blossoming Sơ ri tree that was planted by a princess of Thailand in our office, in beautiful HCMC.

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