By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
After more than a year of nationwide mourning over the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who passed away at age 88 in October 2016, Thai Ambassador to Mexico Rommanee Kananurak and her entire staff offered their first major official function on Monday, Dec. 4, with a diplomatic reception to mark the Southeast Asian country’s national day at the Presidente InterContinental Hotel in Colonia Polanco.
The reception, which was attended by both members of the international diplomatic corps and the Thai community in Mexico, along with Mexican dignitaries, included a lavish buffet of Thai cuisine, as well as a speech by Ambassador Kananurak praising the accomplishments of the late monarch and heralding in the reign of his son, Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun.
Kananurak pointed out that the death of Bhumibol represented “a great loss” for the Thai people, most of whom grew up witnessing his dedication to service and social achievements as a key element of their daily lives.
“Throughout his majesty’s reign, he served as a unifying figure for all Thais,” she said, adding that he was universally loved and revered.
“He reigned with righteousness for the benefit and happiness of the people, living up to the pledge he made during his coronation ceremony in 1950.”
She noted that his cremation ceremony earlier this year was broadly attended by both Thais and foreign dignitaries.
“Over the past year since the start of the mourning period up to the cremation ceremony, 21 million people came to pay their condolences and respect,” Kananurak said.
“His Majesty’s contributions were not only evident to the Thai people, but were also recognized by the international community. Known as the ‘Development King.’ he received many awards from various international institutions and organizations. Notable among them was the United Nations’ Human Development Lifetime Achievement Award, which was presented to His Majesty by then-Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2006.”
Kananurak also spoke briefly about her country’s new monarch, who opted to continue celebrating his father’s birthday as Thailand’s official national day.
Turning to the topic of bilateral relations with Mexico, Kananurak said that Mexico has always been a good friend to Thailand, having established bilateral diplomatic relations in 1975.
She likewise said that, since taking office, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has worked hard to broaden relations with Asia, while Thailand has strived to be more active in Latin America.
“Mexico is one of our priorities in this region,” Kananurak said.
The ambassador said that Mexico is now Thailand’s second-largest trading partner in Latin America, and combined bilateral trade has more than tripled over the last eight years to reach a volume of $3.4 billion annually.
“The number of Mexicans visiting Thailand is also growing by double digits,” she said, “and more than 20,000 Mexicans visited Thailand last year.”
Kananurak said that Thailand and Mexico share many similarities in terms of their industrial profiles.
“Both countries are major producers and exporters of automobiles and electronics in their respective region, hence much the trade between Thailand and Mexico is in the fields of automotives, electronics and auto parts,” she said.
“The embassy, together with the Thai Trade office and the Board of Investment of Thailand, continues to explore potential new areas in which the Thai private sector might have an interest for trade with and investment in Mexico,” Kananurak said.
“This year, the embassy has received delegations from the automotive and energy sectors of Thailand who are keen on expanding their business activities into Mexico. We have also visited major economic cities like Guadalajara, Monterrey, Aguascalientes, Guanajuato, Queretaro and Puebla to learn more about trade and investment potential between our two countries.”
The envoy spoke about Thailand’s efforts to transform itself into a value-based economy driven by innovation, knowledge, technology and creativity, with the long-term goal of developing forward-moving, high-tech industries.
“The embassy is aware that Mexico has expertise in many of these industries, and sees great potential for investment and technical cooperation with Mexico in these areas,” she said.
Kananurak concluded by saying that Thailand also looks forward to working closer with Mexico in multilateral forums on issues that are of common concern for both countries, including the Asia Pacific Free Trade Agreement, climate change, sustainable development, nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, drug trafficking, migration and human rights.
“As we head into 2018, Thailand will continue working to sustain the momentum of dialogue, trade, investment, people-to-people contacts and our good relations with Mexico,” she said.
Known as Siam until 1939, Thailand is the only Southeast Asian country never to have been taken over by a European power. A bloodless revolution in 1932 led to a constitutional monarchy.