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Your Excellency, Dr Surapong Tovichakchaikul, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand,
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to join you in celebrating 150 years of diplomatic relations between our two nations.
We are today commemorating the anniversary of the Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation between the Kingdom of Prussia and the Kingdom of Siam, concluded nearly exactly 150 years ago here in Bangkok. This treaty marks the beginning of a longstanding friendship between our two countries, a friendship that was in its early stages cemented by His Majesty King Chulalongkorn who is credited with paving the way for Thailand into the modern world.
King Chulalongkorn was the first Thai monarch to undertake a journey to Europe. When he travelled to Germany in 1897 and again in 1907 he was given a particularly warm welcome. On his second trip in 1907, King Chulalongkorn spent a month in the German spa town of Bad Homburg. During his stay, the king discovered a mineral spring that was later named after him. He also presented the town with a Thai style pavillion, a sala, that has graced the spa gardens ever since.
In these early years, German experts came to Thailand to share their knowledge on subjects as diverse as postal and telegraph communications, railroads, medicine, architecture and library sciences. Thus they contributed laying the groundwork to the formation of the modern Thai state. Trade between our two countries expanded as a significant number of German merchants began to establish themselves in Bangkok.
After World War II relations between our countries intensified further: in commerce, culture, education as well as economic, scientific and technical cooperation.
Today, this year's anniversary provides us with the opportunity to take stock of our relations. To name just a few of the many examples that make up the essence of the friendship between our two nations:
Thailand has evolved from a partner in development cooperation to an important and reliable trading partner. Indeed trade between our countries is in very good shape. More than 500 German companies have invested in Thailand, in sectors ranging from chemicals and cars to environmental technologies. The ambitions of the Thai Government to invest in the development of a low-carbon economy will entail further opportunities for investment and trade, e.g. in the field of sustainable transport networks and renewable energies.
More than half a million German tourists visit Thailand annually and in return Thai tourists make up for more than 10% of all Asian tourist arrivals in Germany. Many German tourists return with a particular fondness for Thai cuisine, which is much appreciated in Germany. Hundreds of Thai restaurants all over the country testify to that.
About 1,000 students study at German universities and here in Bangkok the Thai-German Graduate School of Engineering, a cooperation between the elite German RWTH Aachen University and the King Mongkut University of Technology bears witness to the excellent cooperation in education and the sciences between our two countries. I had the privilege today to meet the Minister of Education and we had very fruitful discussions about bilateral education issues.
Thailand enjoys a strong and heartfelt sympathy in Germany. When last year, Thailand was struck by a historic flood catastrophe, people in Germany expressed their deep concern and sympathy. The German Government was among the first to help, with humanitarian aid in cash and in kind to ease the suffering of the people. But we also felt the need to contribute to preserving the world famous temples of Ayutthaya [sprich: Ajutajah]. The UNESCO cultural heritage site had sustained severe damages during the month-long flooding. It gives me pleasure that the Foreign Office in Germany has entrusted Professor Leisen, an acclaimed expert for stone preservation, to provide his expertise to this cultural heritage preservation cooperation project in Ayutthaya.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
In celebrating this 150th anniversary we look back gratefully at what we have been able to achieve. But let us also use this occasion to look forward, to strengthen the foundations of our bilateral exchange and cooperation. Let us use this anniversary as a springboard for the younger generation to be inspired and interested to learn more about the other country.
On behalf of the German Federal Government, I would like to express our hope that in the years to come we can further intensify our cooperation and long standing partnership with Thailand in all fields. I would like to thank his Excellency, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand for his warm welcome and his kind hospitality in hosting this wonderful reception tonight.
Congratulations to 150 years of a close partnership and many happy returns.
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen
Thank you very much.