People-to-people Relations Between Vietnam and Thailand: Bright Prospects in Coming Decades

Bilateral cooperation between Vietnam and Thailand is being strongly developed in all fields, including people-to-people diplomacy. The relationship between the two peoples of Vietnam and Thailand has bright prospects in the future.
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People-to-people Relations Between Vietnam and Thailand: Bright Prospects in Coming Decades
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in Thailand

Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in Thailand Phan Chi Thanh gave a brief history of cooperation between the two Southeast Asian nations.

"Vietnam and Thailand established diplomatic relations on August 6, 1976. In 1978, the two sides opened embassies in each country. At this stage, the two countries' relations got off to a good start after Prime Minister Pham Van Dong's official visit to Thailand in October 1978.

On July 28, 1995, Vietnam officially became a member of ASEAN. The ASEAN common roof has fueled the expansion and strong development of Vietnam-Thailand bilateral relations. After this time, the relationship between the two sides has been continuously cultivated, strengthened and consolidated in all aspects.

This year, on the occasion of the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, it can be said that, despite experiencing ups and downs due to fluctuations in the region and each country, the relationship between Vietnam -Thailand has always been preserved, and has grown strongly in both breadth and depth in all fields so far. On the state side, the two sides upgraded their relations to a Strategic Partnership during the visit to Thailand by General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong in June 2013. Thailand is the only country where the Government of Vietnam has an effective, joint Cabinet meeting mechanism, chaired by the two Prime Ministers and all participating government members.

People-to-people diplomacy is one of the pillars of the relationship between the two countries, which has made many important contributions to the development of Vietnam-Thailand friendship and cooperation in recent years. The Vietnam - Thailand Friendship Association has played an important role in people-to-people exchanges since its establishment, and together with the Thailand - Vietnam Friendship Association has become an effective bridge, contributing to enhancing mutual understanding and traditional friendship between the peoples of the two countries. In recent years, the cooperation relationship between the Vietnam - Thailand Friendship Association and the Thailand - Vietnam Friendship Association has grown and operated effectively. In the fields of economy, trade and investment, the Thailand - Vietnam Friendship Association has organized many activities to support businesses of the two countries to connect and help find business opportunities."

Afterwards, the ambassador participated in a brief Q&A with the Vietnam Times.

Could you evaluate the people-to-people exchange cooperation between the two countries and what we need to do to promote people-to-people exchanges in the coming time?

Ambassador: After 10 years of implementing Directive 04-CT/TU dated July 6, 2011 on "Continuing innovating and improving the effectiveness of people-to-people diplomacy in the new situation", people-to-people diplomacy has obtained significant results. The Resolution of the 13th Party Congress continues to affirm that people-to-people diplomacy is a pillar of our country's comprehensive diplomatic strategy, to attract more friends of Vietnam in the world, thereby building good relationships. People-to-people diplomacy with Thailand has had diverse modes of operation, effectively supporting the two countries' diplomatic relations, promoting images and enhancing understanding between the two peoples. The two friendship associations have built up a cooperative mechanism to meet annually in each country over the past 10 years, helping to solve many problems in people-to-people cooperation between the two countries.

People-to-people exchanges between Vietnam and Thailand took place actively with 17 pairs of provinces and cities of Vietnam signing cooperation agreements or twinning with Thai localities to exploit strengths and potentials of cooperation. In particular, the cooperation between localities of the two countries in the Northeast region of Thailand has contributed to promoting the development of trade, tourism and investment, through the development of the East-West Economic Corridor.

Besides the achieved results, cooperation and people-to-people exchanges between Vietnam and Thailand still have some limitations such as activities that have not really penetrated into all classes of people; information and promotion work are still quite modest; only focus on friendly exchanges, not going into specific areas of cooperation. Limited funding leads to not being able to organize many large-scale activities.

In order to promote people-to-people exchanges with Thailand, it is necessary to do the following things: Firstly, promote cooperation in investment, education, culture, arts, sports and employment between the two countries, in which people are the main sources of cooperation.

Second, strengthen tourism exchanges, especially cultural tourism, historical tourism, medical tourism, both to develop economic cooperation and create conditions for improving mutual understanding between people.

The third is to do well in promoting the image of the country and people of Vietnam in the eyes of Thai friends and vice versa.

Fourth, promote the role of cultural bridge between the Vietnamese-Thai community and the Vietnamese living in Thailand and the Thai community in Vietnam.

Fifth, strengthen the coordination between associations, especially the Vietnam - Thailand Friendship Association and the Thailand - Vietnam Friendship Association with other organizations in the implementation of projects and programs to enhance people-to-people understanding and exchange.

Sixth, continue to promote the role of the Vietnamese Embassy in Thailand and the Thai Embassy in Hanoi in coordinating and supporting people-to-people exchanges and cooperation between localities.

People-to-people Relations Between Vietnam and Thailand: Bright Prospects in Coming Decades
Ambassador Phan Chi Thanh visited overseas Vietnamese in Chaiyaphum province, Thailand (December 12, 2020)

Can you tell us about the current situation of overseas Vietnamese living in Thailand?

Ambassador: The Vietnamese community in Thailand is quite diverse, estimated at more than 100,000 people. This is a humane community, well integrated into the host country, recognized and supported by the Thai Royal Family, Government and people. The increasingly good relationship between Vietnam and Thailand has created conditions for overseas Vietnamese throughout Thailand to feel secure, integrate, and stabilize their lives, making positive contributions to the economic and social development of the host country. It is an important bridge connecting the solidarity and friendship between the two nations. People look to their roots, especially always have activities towards their homeland and country, typically in the donation campaign to support floods in the Central region in 2020, and the 2021 Covid-19 vaccine fund.

Nowadays, the majority of overseas Vietnamese in Thailand have a well-off or average life. Later generations of descendants have fully integrated into the host society, becoming successful entrepreneurs and intellectuals, many of whom are doctors and professors. Especially recently, quite a lot of Thai people of Vietnamese origin have been trusted by the local people to be elected to the local government apparatus, actively participating in the political life of the host country.

In terms of spiritual life, people always preserve and promote the national cultural identity, teach and learn the Vietnamese language, build and preserve Vietnamese temples. Up to now, there are 23 active Vietnamese temples in Thailand, 7 in Bangkok alone. In particular, there are 3 memorial sites for President Ho Chi Minh in 3 provinces of Phi Chit, Udon Thani and Nakhon Phanom which are spacious, becoming attractive historical tourist destinations not only for Vietnamese people but also Thai people. In the Thai education system, Vietnamese is used in high schools according to the actual needs of each locality, in some major Thai universities, there are often Vietnamese language departments and taught as a foreign language.

People-to-people Relations Between Vietnam and Thailand: Bright Prospects in Coming Decades
Thai Prime Minister Kriangsak Chomanan and Prime Minister Pham Van Dong after talks in Bangkok, September 1978. Photo: VNA

How would you rate the prospect of cooperation in the field of trade and tourism between the two countries?

Ambassador: Based on the positive results and the determination of the two countries, I believe that cooperation in the field of trade and tourism between Vietnam and Thailand will grow stronger in the coming time.

Trade cooperation between Vietnam and Thailand in recent years has been very exciting, increasing steadily over the years. Two-way turnover in 2019 reached about US$17.5 billion and nearly US$16 billion in 2020 despite the Covid-19 pandemic, accounting for about 30% of the total exchange value of Vietnam with ASEAN. In the first 6 months of 2021, two-way turnover is estimated at US$10 billion, up 27% over the same period in 2020. Recently, leaders of the two countries have agreed to set a target of two-way turnover reaching US$25 billion by 2025. I think, if the two sides can solve the current barriers and obstacles, the two-way import and export activities will be even more exciting.

Cooperation in the field of tourism is also very positive thanks to factors such as close geographical location and convenient flight routes. The number of Thai tourists to Vietnam ranks 10th among foreign tourists to Vietnam and 4th among ASEAN countries. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Thai tourists entering Vietnam in 2019 were 510,000, an increase of 50% compared to 2018; while Vietnamese tourists to Thailand reached 1.07 million. Vietnamese people also love the form of medical tourism in Thailand with a good quality hospital system while the cost is quite reasonable.

In the coming time, the Vietnamese Embassy in Thailand wishes to coordinate with Vietnam's airlines and tourism to organize two-way promotional events for the tourism market of Vietnam and Thailand when the two countries reopen to international tourism.

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