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The Warsaw Voice » Other » April 23, 2008
Thailand in Poland
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Thailand Eyes Poland as Gateway to Europe
April 23, 2008   
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Just as Poland is a gateway to western and eastern Europe for many foreign companies, Thailand is a gateway to many Asian markets. This constitutional monarchy of 63 million, which had 4.7 percent economic growth in 2007, has set its eyes on Poland as a base for expanding into Europe.

Thailand's ambassador to Poland, Thakur Phanit, talks with Jolanta Wolska.

Why did the Thai government decide to hold the first Thai Expo in Poland?
Because we think that Poland is a very important country in Central and Eastern Europe. There is a lot of potential for economic, trade and investment cooperation between our two countries. Poland can be a hub for transportation and logistics to the rest of Europe-from Western Europe to Eastern Europe-for Thai trade. We are looking at setting up a core distribution center in Poland for our products. We also think we can do business here. The importance we place on this first Expo in Poland is indicated by the fact that the Thai deputy prime minister and trade minister will open the event in Warsaw.

Thailand has not been very stable politically recently, although democratic elections were held at the end of last year after a military coup in September 2006. How does political instability affect trade and investment?
That has not affected trade. Even though we do not have political stability and governments change, the government machinery and administration is stable. And that is the bigger picture. Even when governments come and go, the royal family, particularly the present King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX), gives our country stability. The changes in government did not in any major way affect the economic situation in our country. I would say that the price of oil has had a greater impact.

And it has not affected tourism, either, because we do not have fighting in the streets and military personnel and their vehicles are rarely seen.

How do you think Polish people perceive Thailand?
I think the Polish people are just starting to learn about Thailand and its culture because more Poles are traveling there. Last year, about 20,000 Poles came to Thailand, even though we don't have direct flights from Poland. We have seen a large increase in visa applications. I hope that in future we will not need visas. Our negotiations haven't started yet, but because Poland joined the Schengen zone, it should be easier to negotiate.

In what ways is Thailand trying to attract Polish investment?
We have many areas of opportunity for investors, but at present Polish companies are only starting to learn about the opportunities in Thailand. We have some interest in real estate to build condominiums for Polish and European people, who want to buy such a property to escape the European winter. This trend was already started a few years ago by the Scandinavians.

Can a foreigner own land and property under Thai law?
Foreigners can own condominiums but there are special requirements to purchase land. If you invest a certain amount in Thailand then you can buy a specified amount of land, or you can have a joint venture with local people and you can rent land on a long-term lease to build your own house or factory on it.

Have you found industries in Poland that could be suitable partners for those in Thailand?
We are interested in many areas. Poland is quite strong in the chemical industry, heavy industry, machinery and even shipbuilding.

We don't have heavy industry but, on a small scale, we produce cars. We export more than 200,000 units of cars a year, about the same amount that Poland exports, but we don't have a national brand. Thailand has been already called the Detroit of the East.

Do many Thai people visit Poland?
Not many. I think that should increase. Only about 5,000 Thais visited last year, and that is a large increase on recent years. I think that with Poland joining Schengen more Thais will find it easier to travel because they will have the Schengen visa. It is quite far for Thais to travel to Europe so they do not come to visit just one country, but plan to see at least three or four countries in one trip.

Is it likely that there will be direct flights between the two countries?
Thai Airlines are already flying to about 20 cities in Europe so it might be difficult for them to expand into Warsaw. But LOT Polish Airlines has just started to resume flights to Asia. If LOT will stop in Bangkok on its way to Beijing or Hong Kong that will be helpful. It will be good for both countries and it should be commercially viable.

How do you view the differences between our two cultures? Thais have enormous respect for the elderly.
My own feeling is that Polish family values are also quite strong. When you compare the situation with any other Western country, I believe that the Polish people still respect seniors. I think the way Polish people treat the elderly is quite similar to Thailand.

Polish people respect the church-that is quite similar to the respect for places of worship in Thailand. So I feel quite comfortable staying here. Our culture is quite polite, but we have our way of releasing energy-through Thai boxing. In the past it was practiced in military barracks for self-defense. If you didn't have a weapon you could still defend yourself.

Thailand has had a long association with Poland.
Yes, in 1897 King Chulalongkorn (Rama V), grandfather of the present king, spent two nights in Łazienki Park Palace on his way from Vienna to St. Petersburg to visit his friend Czar Nicholas II. I have a photograph of the king's visit to Poland in the embassy.

Do you like Polish food? It is very different from your cuisine.
Yes, my favorite soup is mushroom soup, especially served in bread, which I love. And I like some of your sausages very much.
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