Interview with Thailand’s Ambassador to Hungary – Tradition and progress
According to GLOBS Magazine, a decades-long good relationship was strengthened further when the Hungarian Trade & Cultural Centre opened its office in the capital of Thailand. (Hungary has run an Embassy in Thailand for decades.) Thanks to the new representation, it will be much easier for Hungarian entrepreneurs to get a footing in the market of 67 million people in the future. Bilateral trade amounted to roughly half a billion US dollar per year in the last period. To celebrate this achievement, we interviewed the Kingdom of Thailand’s Ambassador to Hungary, Jakkrit Srivali, who was accredited in Budapest a year ago.
Even though the Thai diplomat has worked in international organisations like the UN, his current job is the one closest to his heart. For instance, being an amateur composer, he is very much inspired by Hungarian composers.
First of all, I only compose piano pieces for the entertainment of my family and myself, but I like Hungarian music. I’ve been inspired a lot by Ferenc Liszt. And Budapest is one of the best spots for the lovers of classical music, and I hope that I will spend enough time here to get to know the Hungarian music, songs better.
GLOBS: Why do you find Hungary to be a special country and what role does it play in the foreign affair strategy of the government in Bangkok?
Jakkrit Srivali: Europe has always been a privileged partner for Thailand. And in the Cold War period, we realised that Hungary is the gate of the continent, especially Eastern-Central Europe. So one of its main strengths is its geographic location. Moreover, it also stands out in the knowledge-based sectors. Several great minds and inventions come from Hungary. Therefore, we would like to encourage to realise more and more exchange programmes, so that we can learn from Hungarians. Thailand is in need of the most modern technologies in the fields of education and agriculture.
GLOBS: Currently, 40 Thai students study in Hungary with scholarships. Which fields are the most popular and what do the Southeast Asian needs call for?
Jakkrit Srivali: To be honest, almost everything. Hungarian universities are excellent and they offer very practicable knowledge. There are more and more programmes that encourage sustainable development. Unfortunately, it took us a long time to realise how important it is that we don’t exhaust our natural environment. In Hungary, great emphasis is laid on the cleanness of waters and environmental protection. There’s a lot we could learn about sustainable agriculture and organic farming.
GLOBS: Thailand welcomes 35 million tourists every year, so tourism is one of the main sources of income for the country. How do you try to seduce Hungarians?
Jakkrit Srivali: We don’t have to introduce Thailand to Hungarians. More and more Thai restaurants, massage salons and Thai box halls can be found all over the country. Last September, we organised a Thai festival in the City Park. Everyone could learn our traditional dance, taste our most delicious meals and enjoy several performances. We hope the festival will continue next year. We also had an online cooking competition, which was visited by many. I believe that the more someone knows a country, the more he/she will want to visit it.
GLOBS: The country was shaken by several terrorist attacks last year, especially in the southern counties where the Muslim separatist organisations are active. Does this pose a danger to tourists?
Jakkrit Srivali: Thailand still remains one of the safest countries of the region. I am confident to state that there’s no serious security threat there. Naturally, smaller incidents happen everywhere, but these don’t affect holiday resorts. I don’t even remember the last time a foreigner fell victim to an attack.
GLOBS: And what does Thailand offer to Hungarian businessmen? Which are the best fields for investment?
Jakkrit Srivali: The most attractive factor is probably our location since Thailand is found in the heart of Southeast Asia. Bangkok is the centre of the whole region. We are surrounded by the most dynamically developing countries of the world, such as Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Thanks to the recent development in the Thai road system, these states can be reached easily. The highway leading to India will be inaugurated in two years. In addition, high speed railway lines will be launched to China in the near future. This means that the main trade route between India and China will cross Thailand, which is a great opportunity for us. Furthermore, there aren’t many places in the world, where the conditions for enterprises are better. We have the third lowest tax rates in Asia. Moreover, we are part of several economic integrations, so investors can reach huge markets. Thanks to all of this, our GDP grew by 3.9% last year and the unemployment rate is also infinitesimal.
GLOBS: How can the Embassy itself help entrepreneurs?
Jakkrit Srivali: Even though we don’t have a bilateral state trade representation in Budapest, anyone can turn to us with any type of question. We try to help in everything. However, the Thai trade centre is the organisation responsible for economic cooperation and investments. Hungary’s role is demonstrated well by the fact that the headquarters of the agency responsible for the whole of East Europe is found in Budapest.
GLOBS: It’s been over a year since King Rama IX, who was the father of all Thai people, passed away. After one year of mourning, his son came to the throne. What has changed?
Jakkrit Srivali: The deceased king ruled for a very long time, seventy years. Hence, most Thai only knew one king. Moreover, he was so affective and honourable that everyone loved him and thought of him as a wise teacher. In the 20th century, Thailand developed very fast, people lost their roots and the sole point of safety left for them was the king. They found peace in his thoughts. And his philosophy became a state confession. This philosophy is based on social justice and still plays a significant role in the everyday life of the country.
Source: by Zoltán SIPOSHEGYI, Journalist specialised in foreign politics/GLOBS MAGAZINE