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On Monday, December 2, the Thai Embassy held a festive reception for the King's birthday and for the National Day of the Kingdom of Thailand.

 

 

The event was held at the Hilton Hotel in Tel Aviv and included a reception overflowing with Thai traditions.

 

Guests were welcomed with a warm handshake by Thai Ambassador Boon-Long, his wife Kamolrat Boon-Long and embassy staff. Guests were treated to a taste of Thailand with musicians and dancers brought especially for this occasion from Thailand. The band played the Thai and Israeli national anthems with traditional Thai instruments to which the audience sang along.

 

 

The Thai Ambassador addressed Yair Shamir, Minister of Agriculture, members of the diplomatic corpsand guests. He said that for the Thai people, the birthday of His Majesty the King is not only a time to celebrate, but also a time to reflect upon His Majesty’s contribution, dedication, and work towards bettering the lives of the Thai people. He said, "His Majesty the King has always been the main pillar in the nation’s stability and in bringing about development in the country. “The Soul of the Nation” as His Majesty the King is referred, does not only relate to the institution of the monarchy but also to the King himself - with his moral integrity, close contact with his people and lifelong devotion to them".

 

 

Ambassador Boom-Long discussed Thai trade relations with Israel: "with Thailand’s capacity as a major world supplier of diversified agricultural products and as a member of ASEAN (a combined market of about 600 million people), together with Israel’s agricultural and scientific technologies, we can work together to utilize the resources of both countries in agriculture and industry."  Ambassador Boom-Long also remarked: "I believe that Thailand and Israel share the same vision of improving people’s livelihood, building human capacity and transferring knowledge for agricultural development domestically and internationally. He added, "with our current dialogue between TICA and MASHAV (Israel's agency for international development cooperation) and other governmental and private entities, Thailand is Israel's strategic partner in conducting trilateral and international cooperation in Southeast Asia and beyond". At the end of his speech, Ambassador Boom-Long toasted to everyone's good health and happiness and to His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej as well as to continued close and cordial relations between Thailand and Israel.

 

 

As the representative of the Government of Israel, Yair Shamir wished his Majesty King  Bhumibol good health and happiness and best wishes to the people of Thailand. Minister Shamir mentioned that this year it would be almost 60 years since the establishment of diplomatic ties between Israel and Thailand. "Thailand was among the first Asian countries to both recognize and maintain diplomatic relations with the State of Israel. Since1954, Thailand and Israel have enjoyed an ever-warming friendship". He continued by saying: "We are particularly proud of Princess Chulabhorn, who has led the cooperation between Rambam and Hadassah Medical Centers in Israel and the Thai Chulabhorn Research Institute in the field of cancer research.

 

 

Minister Shamir mentioned that as Thailand enjoys a major economic position in Asia and as the world looks east, Thailand will play an increasingly important economic role in the region.

 

The economic exchanges between the countries are diverse and vast and cover the communication, agriculture, defense, food and water technologies sectors, among others. He mentioned that apart from trade, Thailand's migrant workers (numbering some 25,000) in Israel play a crucial role in our economic relations. Israel is committed and will remain committed to their welfare and protection. Israel is also proud to have trained thousands of Thai citizens in agriculture and other disciplines through the "Mashav" Agency.

 

 

Minister Shamir concluded by asking AmbassadorBoom-Long to "convey our best wishes to His Majesty the King of Thailand, the government and people of Thailand on its National day. "May Thailand continue to prosper and flourish and we wish that the good relations and friendship between Thailand and Israel will continue to grow in the years ahead".

 

The Thai band then continued to play while guests enjoyed a variety of Thai delicacies served in accordance with Thai tradition and its unique food decorations.  

 

 

During the event, I had the chance to meet Dov Kalmann, the representative of the Tourism Authority of Thailand in Israel. I asked him to describe the nature of Israeli tourism to Thailand.Mr. Kalmann said that Israelis "regard Thailand as a kind of second home. The increase in number of Israelis visiting the Kingdom (130,000 = 1.6% of the total population) is almost an international phenomena – only Switzerland produces more visitors to Thailand relative to their population. One item to take note of is the fact that there are 415 weekly flights (direct or indirect) from Switzerland to Thailand compared to only 78 weekly flights from Israel. Our main constraint is therefore the lack of flights. We see 2013 showing another increase (8%) in traffic from Israel to Thailand'.

 

 

Mr. Kalmann continued by saying that, "according to official Thai statistics, Israelis spend an average of $134 per day. This is higher than most other groups. Our aim is to retain the high-end profile Israelis have of Thailand by promoting high quality products, family travel, shopping and honeymoon vacations". He mentioned that the fastest growing segment of the Israeli market to Thailand is the family segment. Israelis travel with their three kids (average) for a period of two weeks, mainly during the low season in Thailand (the rainy season). This has been a major target since TAT opened its representative office in Israel. 

 

 

Of course it was impossible not to ask him about tourism in light of current internal protests and demonstrations in Thailand.  Mr. Kalmann said that right now there is no reason not to visit Thailand. "The demonstrations are taking place in areas far away from the main tourist areas, shopping malls and nightlife sites. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not issued any new travel advisory – but recommend remaining updated regarding any developments. We have not noticed any change in booking patterns from Israel nor any cancellations".

 

 

 

Here are some interesting facts we found about Thailand:

 

Thailand (officially the Kingdom of Thailand) was formerly known as Siam. The country is a constitutional monarchy, headed by King Rama IX, the ninth king of the House of Chakri, which has reigned since 1946.  Thailand is the world's 51st-largest country in terms of total area (with an area of approximately 513,000 km2) and is the 20th-most-populous country, with some 64 million people. About 75% of the population is ethnically Thai, 14% Thai Chinese, and 3% Malay, with the rest belonging to minority groups and various hill tribes. The country's official language is Thai. The primary religion is Buddhism - around 95% of the population.

 

 

Regarding their economy, Thailand is an emerging economy and considered a newly industrialized country.Thailand exports over $105 billion of goods and services annually. Major exports include rice, textiles and footwear, fishery products, rubber, jewelry, cars, computers and electrical appliances. Thailand is the world's no.1 exporter of rice, exporting more than 6.5 million tons of milled rice annually.

 

 

Industrial products include electrical appliances and components, computer parts and automobiles. Thailand ranks high among the world's automotive exporters as well as in the manufacturing of electronic goods. Tourism in Thailand makes up about 6% of the economy.Thailand has a GDP of $602 billion, putting Thailand as the second largest economy in Southeast Asia. 

 

According to the Israeli Export Institute, trade between Thailand and Israel has increased steadily in recent years. In 2010, bilateral trade between the countries grew by 40%. Thailand imports mainly diamonds and chemicals from Israel and exports to Israel machinery and electronic equipment.

 

Photos Silvia G.Golan