Tuesday, December 5, 2018
Ambassador Virachai, distinguished guests, it is an honor to join you tonight to celebrate the National Day of the Kingdom of Thailand.
In 1862, President Lincoln wrote to his “great and good friend,” King Mongkut. His letter was exhibited in Bangkok earlier this year with other gifts and correspondence exchanged between American presidents and Thai kings over the last two centuries.
This exhibit included many artefacts from the seven decade reign of His Late Majesty King Bhumibol, the anniversary of whose birth we honor tonight. And we were particularly honored that his son, His Majesty King Rama the tenth, opened the exhibit in March.
This year also marks the 185th anniversary of formal diplomatic ties between Thailand and America. And our treaty alliance will reach sixty-five years next September. American and Thai forces have fought side-by-side even longer, starting in the Second Battle of the Marne during World War One.
The strong cooperation between our forces was highlighted this summer when a U.S. military search and rescue team supported the Thai-led cave rescue of young soccer players in northern Thailand.
Many private American companies and citizens also contributed to that rescue. Chevron brought unique technical expertise and equipment for drilling and pumping. The commitment of American firms to Thailand reflects our strong economic ties — two-way trade reached $42 billion last year.
Many aspects of the friendship between America and Thailand benefit the entire Indo-Pacific region. Our police work hand-in-hand to combat transnational trafficking in persons, wildlife, and narcotics. We co-host the International Law Enforcement Academy in Bangkok, which has trained over 15,000 Asian law enforcement professionals since 1998.
One-fifth of our official presence in Thailand works on global health. We have worked together for decades to research and develop vaccines and drugs. Together, we are training public health professionals from around the region to detect and respond to disease threats before they become epidemics.
Thailand’s leadership can promote a free and open Indo-Pacific region. Thailand’s national elections next year can demonstrate our shared commitment to democracy and the rule of law and support the implementation of the governance pillar of our Indo-Pacific strategy.
Just last week, the United States formally accepted the Royal Thai Government’s invitation to become an ACMECS development partner. We look forward to working with Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam to support regional growth through ACMECS and our Lower Mekong Initiative.
We are working with Thailand to help make its 2019 Chairmanship of ASEAN the most successful yet. We will work with Thailand as chair to implement the new U.S.-ASEAN Smart Cities Partnership to advance digital transformation and collaboration in the innovation economy.
And I am pleased to announce tonight that we will be working with Thailand and the U.S. business community to host the next Indo-Pacific Business Forum in Bangkok in 2019. The Forum will showcase how the American and Thai governments and private sectors are building a free, open, and prosperous Indo-Pacific. We are accelerating American private sector investment which advances the prosperity of all.
Ladies and gentlemen, over the past 200 years, America and Thailand have become friends, partners, and allies. Tonight, I look forward to the next two centuries of our “Great and Good Friendship.”