On the occasion of Australia’s National Day, I would like to extend my warmest wishes to the Kingdom of Thailand and the Thai people.
This year’s Australia Day comes after months of bushfires, which have devastated our land, wildlife and people. As Australia’s Ambassador, I have been overwhelmed and humbled by the outpouring of support and assistance from the Thai community, and the Australians living in Thailand. This generosity reflects the warm bonds between Australians and Thais, nurtured over many decades of exchanges and cooperation.
I would particularly like to say a big ‘Thank You!’ to the people of Phuket for their support. Khun Bhummikitti, President of the Phuket Tourist Association, visited my residence on Thursday, 23 January to present a cheque of almost a million baht for bushfire relief activities. This money was raised by the recent fun run and other fundraising in Phuket. Phuket people have a big heart! Khun Bhummikitti also presented me with ‘Nong Joong’, the Phuket mascot.
With Australia’s national bushfire recovery efforts well underway, I urge the Thai people to continue visiting, studying, travelling and investing in our beautiful country. Australians are resilient people, and with the support of friends like Thailand, we will recover and rebound.
Our people-to-people links are strong and enduring. 800,000 Australians visit Thailand every year, while there are almost 20,000 Thai students enrolled in Australian education facilities. Under Australia’s flagship New Colombo Plan, over 1,300 Australian students have studied in Thai universities, forging special connections between the next generation of Australians and Thais.
In 2019, Australia and Thailand’s relationship grew across trade and investment, defence and security, education, agriculture, migration and law enforcement. Thailand’s investment in Australia has grown to almost AUS$7 billion, funding new projects in energy, sugar, hotels and other areas. And there are more than 200 Australian companies in Thailand.
We expanded cooperation on important security issues, including the launch of the ASEAN-Australia Counter-Trafficking Initiative, and the signing of the Australia-Thailand Memorandum of Understanding on Cyber and Digital Economy Cooperation. We increased the number of Working Holiday Maker visas available to Thais from 500 to 2,000 per year.
Australia congratulates Thailand on a successful year as ASEAN Chair in 2019. Thailand’s legacy will be the adoption of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, whose vision for a peaceful region Australia shares, and the finalisation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which will enhance regional economic integration and openness.
A range of high-level visits in 2019 underscored the momentum in the Australia-Thailand relationship, including visits by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women, Marise Payne and Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Simon Birmingham. In 2019, Australia was honoured to host visits by Her Royal Highness Princess Sirindhorn and Her Royal Highness Princess Chulabhorn. In 2020, Australia looks forward to visits by Commander in Chief of the Royal Thai Army General Apirat and Chief of Defence Forces General Ponpipaat.
When our two Prime Ministers met in November, they indicated their intent to elevate our already rich relationship to a Strategic Partnership, which will see greater political oversight and even stronger levels of cooperation.
I look forward to working with our friends and colleagues in Thailand to elevate our already rich relationship to an even higher plane in 2020.
I wish everyone a happy Australia Day.
Allan McKinnon PSM
Australian Ambassador to Thailand