THAI NATIONAL DAY SPEECH
On the occasion of the 83rd Birthday Anniversary of His Majesty
King Bhumibol Adulyadej
and the National Day of Thailand
Sunday 5 December 2010
Your Excellency, Mr Noppadon Theppitak, Ambassador of Thailand to New Zealand, Tonga and Samoa, officials of the Royal Thai Embassy, and representatives of the Thai Community in New Zealand;
Your Excellencies and Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen;
Today is an important day for Thailand, marking the 83rd birthday of His Majesty the King and the National Day of Thailand. His Majesty is a revered figure and New Zealanders appreciate the admiration and respect that the people of Thailand hold for their King. His Majesty continues to fulfil a pivotal role in Thai national life.
It is an occasion to reaffirm the strength and warmth of New Zealand’s relationship with Thailand, which is one of our oldest in Asia, dating back to the 1950s. From its beginnings it is a relationship that has been people focussed, based on warm personal relationships from the highest political level, through our education links, our aid programme, tourism, business relationships, and through to friendships between New Zealanders and Thais in the local communities in both countries. This is also the strength that will carry the relationship through to fulfil its promise in the future.
The initial foundational work for the relationship, which has been carefully grown and nurtured over many years, has recently expanded into a wide ranging and productive engagement across the full spectrum of bilateral regional and international cooperation that has kept pace and more with the changing global context that has shaped our two countries.
People-to-people links are strong, resting on education and tourism links. With origins in the Colombo Plan era, Thailand is New Zealand’s fourth largest market source of international students. In 2010 there were more than 3,000 Thai students enrolled with New Zealand education providers. New Zealand universities have developed strong links with counterpart institutions in Thailand, including with Thailand’s most prestigious universities. For New Zealand, education links are a bridge that opens many doors: business, investment, migration and other connections.
In tourism we also see the bilateral relationship flourishing: New Zealanders are visiting Thailand in growing numbers (more than 90,000 in 2010), and we hope that many more people from Thailand will come to discover the natural beauty of New Zealand and become equally eager to get to know New Zealanders.
Turning to our trade and investment relationship – and I note that Thailand is New Zealand’s twelfth largest trading partner worldwide – there is considerable potential for further diversification and growth. New Zealand has much to offer Thailand, from food and beverage and construction timber exports, to services in areas such as environmental energy, clean technologies, and services and education. The reverse is also true as Thailand’s large and rapidly developing economy creates its own additional export opportunities. For example, a huge number of the cars that New Zealanders drive are made in Thailand.
The development of initiatives such as the ASEAN-Australia New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA) has the potential to expand these economic links in new and exciting directions.
The relationship also covers many other diverse fields of shared interest, from cooperation on environmental issues in areas such as climate change, water management and air quality, to finding ways that we can work together in research, science and technology, in areas such as forensics, renewable energy, food safety and food standards.
The key area of shared interest for New Zealand’s Aid Programme and Thailand International Development Cooperation Agency (TICA) is the Mekong Institute (MI). The institute provides regional training and research for government officials from the Greater Mekong region, providing courses on rural development, trade and investment facilitation, leadership and regional cooperation. It is a world-class agency that is helping underpin social, economic and environmental development in the region.
Thailand is an important friend to New Zealand in South East Asian regional affairs. Our future is closely linked with your region, and we valued the important role Thailand played last year as Chair of ASEAN. New Zealand also very much appreciates Thailand’s support for the holding of the special ASEAN-New Zealand 35th commemorative summit held in Ha Noi this year.
The region’s institutions and processes are evolving rapidly. ASEAN plays an increasingly important part in the way South East Asian affairs are conducted, and also in the way that South East Asia relates to the wider Asian region and the rest of the world. The links that New Zealand has with South East Asia are extremely important to us. We look forward to the close cooperation with Thailand continuing.
Your Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentleman, I now invite you to join me in a toast to his Majesty King Bhumibol Aduyadej. To the King.