Opening remarks by H.E. Mr. Kirill Barsky, Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the Kingdom of Thailand, at the “Tribute Ceremony to celebrate the 120th anniversary of relations between Thailand and Russia” organized by the Thai-Russian Chamber of Commerce

25 April, 2017

Dusit Thani Hotel, Bangkok

Dear Dr. Sombat Thiratrakoolchai,

Dear Thai and Russian participants,

Ladies and gentlemen,

This year we are celebrating the 120th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relations between Russia and Thailand – a significant milestone in our shared history. This is the time for friends to recall all the key chapters and brightest moments of the glorious path that Russia and Thailand have covered together to reach the point where we are now. It gives me special pleasure to say that the Thai-Russian Chamber of Commerce is among the first to hold an event to commemorate this important date. I view it as a powerful manifestation of true friendship and as a firm commitment of the members of TRCC to the promotion of economic cooperation with my country.

It will be fair to say that Russian-Thai relations are unique in many aspects. They are relations between two friendly peace-loving nations, with democratic political systems, strong market economies, diverse population and rich cultures. Russian and Thai people have a distinct sense of national dignity. We both value our sovereignty and independence as well as the right to choose our own model of development and way of life. Throughout their history, Russia and Thailand may have had different views but have never been adversaries. Between them there never existed a political or military conflict, a serious strategic controversy or a clash of core interests. Moreover, our relations began as a military alliance that helped the Kingdom of Siam to withstand the challenge of becoming a colony of Western powers and opened for the Russian Empire new horizons of strengthening its positions in Asia vis-a-vis Great Britain, France, the United States, Germany and Japan.

Unlike with other countries where political relationship was driven by trade interests, Thailand’s relations with Russia were shaped by the agreements between our top political leaders. Economic cooperation always followed political deals. It happened in late 19th century after King Rama V and Crown Prince Nicholas became friends. It happened again in late 80’s of the 20th century when the visit of Prime Minister Gen. Prem Tinsulanonda to the USSR paved the way for détente in Thai-Soviet relations. It is happening now, as our partnership is gaining momentum following the state visit of H.E. Mr. Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, to Thailand in 2003, the state visit of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit to Russia in 2007, the official visit of H.E. Mr. Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Minister of Russia, to Thailand in 2015 and the official visit of H.E. Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister of Thailand, to Russia in 2016.   

However as early as at the dawn of closer political relations between Russia and Siam Russian diplomats were far-sighted enough to identify an enormous potential of our economic cooperation. In his review of the situation in Siam date July 1, 1897, addressed to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, H.E. Mr. Alexander Olarovsky, then Consul General of the Russian Empire in New York, emphasized that rapprochement with Siam may “open new markets for export of the Russian kerosene and oil … as well as other raw materials from Russia”. Half a year later Mr. Olarovsky was appointed charge d’affaires and Consul General of Russia in Bangkok. In 1898, he received the Foreign Ministry’s instructions reading: “Some of our export commodities can be easily sold in Siam, in particular Russian kerosene which is already conquering the markets of the Extreme East and successfully competing with American oil products”. From Bangkok, he reported to St. Petersburg that Russian companies can engage in development of coal mines in Malacca peninsula. In 1900-1901, Russian merchants started to export their textiles and tobacco to Siam.

When Russia and Thailand solidified their political alliance, the Government in St. Petersburg shifted its focus to economic cooperation with Thailand. In 1908, it instructed H.E. Mr. Alexander Yakovlev, the second Minister-Resident of Russia to Siam “to pay most serious attention to Russian trade and economic interests. Our relations with Siam in this area are unsatisfactory. While several years ago the sales of Russian kerosene were flourishing, now its export dropped to a very low level… Meanwhile Siam is a very important market for Russia… We should strive for signing a Russian-Siamese trade pact.”

Even though between 1917 and 1941 Siam and Soviet Russia did not have diplomatic relations, trade relations existed and were mutually beneficial though limited. For example, before the WW II the USSR contracted a large amount of natural rubber from Siam, which turned out to be strategically important for the Soviet defense industry and helped to get prepared for the war against the Nazi Germany.

It was not before the 70’s that our bilateral trade began to pick up. In 1970, the Soviet Union signed an intergovernmental trade agreement with Thailand. The trade turnover was relatively small, however even at that time our countries could find converging economic interests. A good example is the TASOS – Thai-Soviet Shipping Company established in Bangkok in 1976. Tuna fish trade with the USSR in the 70’s gave birth to the “Amata” business empire.

What does the history of the 120 years of the Russian-Thai relations teach us? Among other things, one of the most important lessons drawn from it is the importance of developing strong and diversified trade and investment cooperation. At all times trade and investments constituted a backbone of any relationship between nations.

Today trade between Russia and Thailand seems to be growing again. The statistics of the first quarter of 2017 indicate a significant surplus. In January and February 2017, our trade turnover amounted USD 230 mln. which represents 18.7 per cent growth as compared with the same period of 2016. While the Russian export decreased by 10 per cent the Thai export to Russia has increased by 31 per cent. with machines and equipment’s share reaching 50 per cent and agricultural products’ share rising to 11 per cent.

Last week the 3rd Meeting of the Russian-Thai Sub-Commission of trade and economic cooperation performed a comprehensive brainstorming of the situation in our bilateral trade and came to very far-reaching conclusions. Its decisions will guide our trade in the right direction.

Let us take coordinated efforts to convert the year of the 120th anniversary into a year of an economic breakthrough for the benefit of a future strategic partnership between Russia and Thailand.





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