Visita Oficial à Tailândia

20 de Dezembro 1999

Dear Prime Minister

Ladies and Gentlemen

Let me thank you, first of all, for your kind invitation to visit Thailand and for the warm and cordial welcome you have extended to myself and my delegation.

It is a great pleasure and an honour for me to be the first Portuguese Head of State to pay an official visit to Thailand, a country with which we have enjoyed friendly and fruitful relations since the early XVIth century.

History provides a strong foundation for our friendship. I recall the great number of Portuguese who served at the court of Siam and who left their mark in Thai culture. In modern times, we had the honour to receive in Portugal the visits of two Thai Kings : His Majesty the King, in 1960, and King Rama V, in 1897. Our diplomatic mission in Bangkok is one of the oldest in this capital, dating back to the early XIXth century.

We must now use this foundation to project our relations into the future. This visit to Thailand underscores the excellence of our present bilateral relations and our wish to strengthen them further, politically, economically and culturally. I have brought with me a distinguished group of businessmen and men of culture. I am sure they will profit from the contacts established while in Bangkok.

This visit also occurs at a historical moment for the presence of Portugal in Asia. As you know, I have just returned from Macau, where I participated in the ceremony of transfer of Macau to Chinese administration and I will be heading next to East Timor, which, we hope, will soon become an independent country.

May I take this opportunity to express my deep appreciation for Thailand support for East Timor and for the very significant participation of Thai forces in INTERFET and its decision to also contribute to UNTAET. This was a courageous and principled decision of the Thai Government, which Portugal will never forget.

In this moment of transition for Portugal in Asia, I wish to state clearly that we look forward to have full and friendly relations with all the countries of the region; that, in the years ahead, we wish to reinforce our presence in this part of the world.

Let me also assure you that, as members of the European Union, we will work to strengthen relations between Asia and Europe. In the first semester of the year 2000, Portugal will hold the presidency of the European Union.

In this capacity, we will work to enhance further the political dialogue initiated in Bangkok and continued in London in the framework of ASEM.

Now that East Timor is firmly engaged in its process of self-determination, a major barrier to progress in this dialogue has been removed. To further the links between our regions, we plan to organise in Lisbon an Asia-Europe Civil Society meeting. We will also work to promote relations between the European Union and ASEAN.

Mr. Prime Minister

We know and we feel that we are here among friends. In the years to come, it is my sincere wish that this longstanding friendship will the basis for an increased co-operation, for the mutual benefits of our two countries.

Allow me, therefore, to raise my glass to you, Mr Prime Minister, and to offer a toast to King Rama IX and to the Royal Family, to yourself, to the well being and prosperity of the Thai people and to the mutual friendship between our two countries.

Jorge Sampaio