Mr Tomikhin made his announcement last Saturday (Feb 9) in front of Russian reporters in the run-up to Diplomats’ Day, an event celebrated by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and its staff each year on Feb 10.
“We are planning to begin work to open our Consulate-General in Phuket this year. That will give a boost to our diplomatic presence,” Russia’s TASS agency quotes the Ambassador as saying. (See story here.)
Mr Tomikhin stressed that Phuket ranks high on the list of Thai locations with the biggest number of Russians resident abroad, alongside Bangkok, Pattaya, Koh Samui, Hua Hin and Chiang Mai.
“The opening of the Consulate-General will be important from the standpoint of stepping up our efforts to protect the rights and interests of Russian citizens. Unfortunately, there are numerous consular cases here,” Mr Tomikhin explained.
It is yet to be officially announced where the Consulate-General will be located and when exactly it will open its doors on the island.
“We designate this year as very important for making all the ground work as there is a whole spectrum of procedures we have to go through from choosing a building, signing agreements on the use of it and assigning personnel [on the first stage] and then adapting the building to for the needs of our Consulate-General,” Mr Tomikhin said.
“There are quite a few technical issues that we are yet to solve together with our colleagues from Moscow as the process involves a whole range of departments [of Government offices] which usually oversee this sphere.
“We strongly figure on a team of our colleagues from Moscow coming shortly and gradually starting to settle down. It would be amazing if the Consulate-General could start working already this year having all the necessary equipment and conditions,” he added.
Russia’s plans to open a consulate in Phuket were first officially revealed two years ago in a statement by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), released ahead of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to Thailand. (See story here.)
Growing tourist arrivals were cited as the main reason for the Russian MFA to expand its presence in the Kingdom.
In July 2018 the Russian Federation made another step toward opening the long-awaited Consulate-General in Phuket, when Russian Prime Minister Dmitriy Medvedev signed an order for the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to proceed with the plan.
In the meantime, a Russian Honorary Consulate opened last year on Koh Samui, one of the top destinations for Russian tourists and expats in Thailand.
According to the official data from the Thai Ministry of Tourism and Sports, Russian arrivals to Thailand grew from 1.09 million in 2016 to 1.47mn in 2018.
In terms of arrivals to Thailand, Russian ranks as number one among non-Asian countries outpacing Australia, the US, the UK and all the countries of continental Europe. (See story here.)