Welcome to Singapore, could you tell us a bit about your background and what you thought when you were told you are going to be posted here?
We have been here since 26 January and already quite familiar with the country. I and my wife have some friends whom we’ve known for decades living in Singapore. Therefore, Singapore is more or less like our second home.
I was very happy when I heard I will be posted to Singapore. I told my old friends as well as our relatives staying in Singapore and they were happy for me too. I grew up in the south of Thailand and the food there is similar to Singapore. Even the desserts are nearly identical. There is even a particular Thai dish in Singapore that cannot be found in Bangkok. I first ate this dish in Singapore when I visited the country as a child.
Before Singapore, I spent half my working life in China – eight years serving two terms in Beijing and four-and-a-half-years in Chengdu, Sichuan. Before joining the civil service, I was based in Hong Kong. Some have even joked that I am a Chinese diplomat in the Thai Foreign Ministry.
Can you share what are your diplomatic goals for Thailand in Singapore?
Our relationship with Singapore is excellent. Some of my Singapore friends have visited Thailand so many times that they know the country better than me. So the pressure is on me to maintain this strong bond and improve it further. The (major) areas of co-operation are the Prime Minister’s Retreat, Economic Enhancement Committee, military and civil service partnerships and people-to-people interaction programmes. I am very satisfied with our people-to-people interaction programmes as it is the people of the two countries who are the true diplomats.
Can you comment on the trade and investment fronts?
Trade and investment ties between Thailand and Singapore are very good. We have over 50 years of trading and investment relations with Singapore. At times, Singapore businesses would enter the Thai market (directly) without approaching the Thai embassy because of Thailand’s stable and secure environment which is attractive to Singaporean investors.
How strong is the Thai Diaspora in Singapore?
There are about 30,000 Thai nationals working here, making up less than one per cent of foreign expatriates in Singapore. We have the monthly Team Thailand events to bring together the Thai government officials and Thai private sector individuals and company professionals in Singapore to socialise and learn from one another on how to promote a closer relationship between Thailand and Singapore.
Are there any upcoming major events we should take coming up in the near future?
In the first half of May 2017, we are going to host the annual Thai Festival on embassy grounds. It will be the 15th year the festival has been held here and we welcome everyone to come and make the event a grand one.
In August of this year, we celebrated Her Majesty the Queen of Thailand’s Seventh Cycle Birthday Anniversary by organizing the Royal Thai Silk exhibition, displaying textiles woven by Thais living in
the rural regions . It is an initiative by our Queen to help raise their income through the sale of their fabrics and promote these beautiful crafted textiles as national treasures.
Please give us your thoughts on Thailand’s role in ASEAN.
Collectively, Thailand and Singapore have important roles and responsibilities to stabilise the region and enhance its economic Development. Currently, and in the future, the focus will be on economic cooperation.
Connectivity is the key to development. Once you do not have good connectivity, we do not feel as one. Geographically, Thailand is one of the important ASEAN links and Singapore is connected to Thailand through Malaysia. In Thailand, we have a highway all the way from the north to the south which is connected to Malaysia. This allows Singaporeans to travel from their country all the way to the north of Thailand by nearly 2,000 km of road links. It is also our hope that the High-Speed Rail from Singapore- Malaysia can be extended to Thailand as well. I do not think this extension will take more than two decades to develop.
We have already organised a superbike rally from Singapore to Phuket in Thailand and a Porsche rally through the same route. This month, we are going to have a friendship ride from Singapore to Thailand involving luxury sports car. The proceeds raised from this event will go to charities in Thailand.
How is it living in Singapore so far?
I value my friendship with Singaporeans. After working in and visiting many countries, I find Singaporeans the easiest to work and make friends with. The hawker food in Singapore is fantastic and the hygiene standards are high so you need not think too much about what and where to eat. The local Chinese food, especially the noodle dishes, Peranakan food and Western fare are extremely delicious.
My wife and I do not have kids so it is very convenient for us to move around and do our own thing. We fly back to Thailand once every month, sometimes for personal reasons, sometimes for official business.
Any aspect of Singapore that you have found worthwhile to note or follow in your posting here?
If there is one thing I want to apply to Thailand, it would be Singapore’s city management. All Thailand needs is half of what Singapore has to be more pleasant. I wish to see rivers or canals in Thailand to be as clean as Singapore’s. We will like to work with Singapore’s infrastructure and city planning professionals to help us achieve this.