How long have you been the South African Ambassador to Thailand?
In October 2011, I accepted an invitation to become a diplomat and the President, on the advice of the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, appointed me as the Ambassador to Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos as well as Permanent Observer to the UNESCAP. I took up my appointment in Bangkok on 23 March 2012, making it almost three months.
What was the purpose of your visit to Phuket?
I came to attend the South African Food and Wine festival held at the Boathouse hotel & Re Ka Ta restaurant in Phuket.This was a joint venture between Emperor’s Palace Casino & Resort Complex in Johannesburg, the Boathouse & Re Ka Ta, the SA Embassy and the SA/Thai Chamber of Commerce.
To me this is good because it promotes my country and our products.
What concerns do you see as affecting the SA citizens currently residing in Phuket?
Well, often than not the Embassy would receive cases of petty crime against our nationals but it’s not something which happens regularly. Sometimes it would be the loss of travel documents thus making it difficult for them to travel.
How would you describe the relationship between South Africa and Thailand?
Since the establishment of diplomatic relations between South Africa and Thailand in 1993, relations between the two countries have been growing. There is sense of renewed vigor to take our relations to new heights.
Over the years, there has been an exchange of high level visits between the two countries. Safe to say our bilateral relations are very cordial, characterised by mutual respect, appreciation of each other’s unique character and cultural diversities. This is not to say there are no challenges.
I am particularly concerned by the fact that there is huge lopsided trade deficit in favour of Thailand. This is despite the fact that South Africa is the economic powerhouse of Africa, and leads the continent in industrial output and mineral production and also generates a large proportion of Africa’s electricity.
South Africa has abundant natural resources, well-developed financial, legal, communications, energy and transport sectors and a modern infrastructure supporting efficient distribution of goods throughout the Southern African region. Quite frankly, there are plenty of investment opportunities in SA.
Therefore what we need is for Thailand to invest in South Africa. The kind of investment which the country seeks is that which encourages job creation and helps the country to improve the quality of life. We seek partnerships that ensure skills development, innovation, capital investments and technology transfer.
Key products exported from Thailand to South Africa are motor cars and parts, rice, telephone sets, computers, and canned fish. Meanwhile major exports from South Africa to Thailand are acyclic hydrocarbons, aluminum, chemical wood pulp, auto parts.
Also, our wines have been recognised for their quality and are gaining more of a market share in Thailand. At present, there are 20 Thai companies who represent South African wines.
What are the main requests for information you receive?
We are often asked whether or not the Thais require a visa to travel to South Africa. Of course we tell them that the Thais, same as South Africans traveling to Thailand, do not require a visa as long as it’s less than 30 days.
How many SA citizens are currently living in Thailand?
The official number is about 67 SA Citizens, due to the fact that registration is voluntary.
The reality is that we may have more SA Citizens than we know. For an example, during our Freedom Day celebration we hosted about 400 guests, almost half of the number were South Africans.