Cérémonie de lancement de la commémoration du 333ème anniversaire de l’ambassade de Kosa Pan à Versailles - Ministère des Affaires Etrangères - Vithes Samosorn - Lundi 2 septembre 2019
Dear Khun Sasiwat, DG for European Affairs of MOFA,
Dear Professor Predee Phisphumvidhi, Mahidol University,
Dear Dr Jingjaï, President of Alliance Française,
I would like, first of all, to thank sincerely the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand for organizing this fine event and, even more significantly, for taking the initiative to celebrate this year the 333rd anniversary of the embassy to France of Kosa Pan, the envoy, the “râatchathûut”, of King Naraï, who arrived in the port city of Brest in 1686 before continuing his journey to the court of Louis the XIV in Versailles. And this is why, nowadays, we have a rue de Siam in Brest and a rue de Brest in Bangkok
It was the first encounter of two far away civilizations, looking at each other as different exotic worlds. The curiosity of Kosa Pan had no limits I was told. Some French witnesses of the time noted that if you asked him four questions, he asked you six ! He wrote everything down and the only part of his « journal » still preserved today, has been miraculously discovered in a Catholic Library in Paris (MEP), translated in English and published in Thailand in the 80s.
Concerning the French perception of Thailand, The Kingdom of Siam appeared then as an Eden, a Paradise : “Trees full of fruits, rivers full of fishes, sow, plant and let the sun do the work” as we can see in many ancient records of French travelers.
These naive images have changed of course in the process of time and the more we knew each other, the more they became complex all along the way. High bilateral visits continued to happen until now. Diplomatic relationships were established in 1856 and His Majesty King Chulalongkorn, Rama V, visited France in 1897, the first time in history for a Thai King. His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Her Majesty Queen Sirikit visited France in 1960 and the French President Jacques Chirac and his spouse visited Thailand in 2006, the first visit in Thailand of a French President in the history.
Back to the present days, splendid coronation ceremonies for the New King His Majesty Vajiralongkorn last May showed how rich and ancient the Thai Royal traditions are.
The holding of the parliamentary elections last March is an essential step in the re-establishment of democratic institutions. General Prayut, the Prime Minister, visited France in June 2018 in his previous capacity and met President Macron, reinforcing our excellent relationship. France will work with the new government to further strengthen its relationship with Thailand, which is its second economic partner in Southeast Asia.
French companies show high interest in doing business in Thailand in the framework of Thailand 4.0 because French know-how matches perfectly the needs of the Thai economy, focusing on advanced manufacturing and high-value services, digitalization, innovation and infrastructures.
The observation satellite Theos II and, hopefully, the future Airbus maintenance center in U Tapao airport are contributions to the upscaling of the Thai economy. Thai companies have also started to invest in France, strengthening our partnership. And France supports the negotiation of an ambitious Free Trade Agreement between EU and Thailand in order to speed up the development of our economic relations. France also elcomes the Indopacific outlook adopted by ASEAN in June. Like France’s own Indopacific strategy, it is inclusive and centered on the defense of a rules- and law based order. Let me here take this opportunity to pay tribute once again to the current Thailand’s ASEAN chairmanship.
There are many other achievements we share in science, education and culture. France promotes various programs in Thailand to foster higher education partnerships between our two countries.
From scholarships for master’s and doctoral students (about 180 since 2011) to scholarships for young researchers from Thai laboratories (150 beneficiaries since 2011), these programs develop new and promising collaborations. I may add that because we are both members of the Francophonie family, we share the same respect for education and training but also cultural diversity. In that field, we support more than 40 cultural events per year. We are particularly committed to initiating collaborations involving French and Thai artists. And it is this type of projects that we also promote in the framework of this anniversary.
As part of D17/20, 4 French designers are working with 4 Thai designers in Chiang Mai at this very moment. This project, highlighting local producers and craftsmen know-how through the creativity of designers from both countries, will be presented at Bangkok Design Week and in France at Lille, World Capital of Design 2020.
Gallery’s Night is another example of Franco-Thai cooperation and its next edition in February 2020 will be organized under the 333 label.
Last but not least, we are planning a baroque concert in Bangkok with a French conductor and Thai musicians.
A complete list of the events sponsored by the embassy is included in the press kit.
Thailand and France will also sign in a moment a MOC (Memorandum of Cooperation) between Thailand International Cooperation agency (TICA) and the French Development Agency (AFD) to strengthen their partnership in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially in the field of climate change and through triangular cooperation in Asia and Africa.
So, you see from 1686 in Versailles to today in Bangkok, France and Thaïland have come a long way together. Throughout this journey, the world around us has dramatically changed. Our two countries face henceforth common challenges that make our relationship even more meaningful and precious than ever before.
I therefore wish, in concluding : Long Live to the friendship between France and Thailand !