Born on September 28, 1969, HE Mr. Chakkrid Krachatwong is the current Ambassador of Thailand to Pakistan. He is happily married to Mrs. Pornrat Krachaiwong. He is holding – Bachelor of Arts (International Affairs), Thammasat University and Master of Arts (Political Science), Sangamon State University, USA
He joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as Third Secretary, Division I, Department of European Affairs. He served as Second Secretary, Division I, Department of European Affairs and Second Secretary, Royal Thai Embassy, Lisbon; First Secretary, Royal, Thai Embassy, Lisbon; First Secretary, Latin America Division, Department of American and South Pacific Affairs; First Secretary, Secretariat to the Department of American and South Pacific Affairs; First Secretary, Royal Thai Embassy, Islamabad; First Secretary, North America Division, Department of American and South Pacific Affairs; Counsellor, North America Division, Department of American and South Pacific Affairs; Deputy Consul-General, Royal Thai Consulate-General, Chicago; Director, International Organizations Administrative Affairs Division, Department of International Organizations; Director, Information and Communication Technology Center: Consul-General, Royal Thai Consulate-General, Sydney; Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Thailand to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan
The Economic Affairs had a candid discussion with HE Mr. Chakkrid Krachatwong particularly focusing on long lasting bi-lateral trade relations, diplomatic ties, religious tourism, COVID-19 cooperation, free trade agreement, etc. between Thailand and Pakistan. Here are the excerpts of the interview;
The Economic Affairs: Pakistan and Thailand are marking the 70th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations this year. What would you like to say in this regard and what kind of activities have been planned to celebrate the 70 years of enjoying a good and long-standing bilateral relations between the two countries? I would also appreciate if you could give a historical background of the bilateral relations between Pakistan and Thailand.
H.E. Chakkrid Krachaiwong: Well, Thailand and Pakistan enjoy a long-standing bilateral relations, based on cultural and historical background. On this 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between our two countries, we both the countries are celebrating our long-standing bilateral relations and we are expecting a number of activities to happen in this regard which is reflective of our strong relationship. Coincide with this, the Thai Embassy and Islamabad Cycling Association, recently organized a “Green Cycling Event” in commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of diplomatic relations between Thailand and Pakistan along the Constitution Avenue. It also symbolizes the “looking forward” of the relationship. So, there are a number of other activities being planned to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the diplomatic relationship.
On this eve, we are also jointly making a football with a logo of marking the 70th anniversary of our relationship. The football is being made by the prominent Pakistani factory, as we all know that Pakistan is the leading producer of good quality footballs which are also used in the FIFA world cup. The rubber and elastic to be used in the football would be provided by Thailand. So, the cooperation between Pakistan and Thailand would not only benefit the two countries, but also the world at large. One of the important milestones of this relationship for the past 70 years, was the royal visit by their Majesties King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit visit to Pakistan in 1962. Not only the late King Adulydei, but the present King Maha Vajiralongkorn also visited Pakistan three times when he was the Crown Prince of Thailand.
The Princes of Thailand also visited Pakistan and she opened the current building of Thai Embassy in Diplomatic Enclave. This is how we give this important value to our relationship with Pakistan. Not only that, we also had the visits by prime minister, presidents as well as the people-to-people. We have quite a big Pakistani community living in Thailand. We also have those Pakistanis who can speak Thai. We also have seen the increase of tourists’ visits between our two countries even during the Covid time.
Thai people started coming here in Pakistan and I think this is important that not only the Thai people, but also the rest of the world should know Pakistan. Because what is important is that Pakistani and Thai people have a lot of similarities in common. Pakistan people are very generous and accord warm hospitality to their guests. So, it is very important to come and to know how fairly Pakistani people are. Similarly, the cultural and civilization is also very important not only for Pakistan, but also to the civilization of the world.
The Economic Affairs: As you mentioned tourism in Pakistan, what do you see the potential of religious tourism in Pakistan, because we have a shared and rich history of Gandhara civilization in the country, besides other beautiful tourist sites in our Northern part of the country. Also whether the Thai government is willing to help restore the centuries old historical and sacred sites…?
H.E. Chakkrid Krachaiwong: You talked about the beautiful sites, actually, Pakistan has many beautiful natural tourist sites, particularly in Northern Pakistan. I have seen a lot of my friends started to come to visit Hunza and some other natural beauties in Pakistan which they could not believe that is actually happening on earth and which is here in Pakistan.I also visited Gilgit just a month ago and when we came back and put our photographs on the social media and people started commenting as to how these beautiful places are. I think, more and more people are nor attracted to come and visit Pakistan’s beautiful sites. I think this is also a new place for the younger generation to come and discover it.
Regarding the religious tourism, you know Taxila has been in out books for a long time and we all have been reading about Taxila, because many of our ancient places are there in Taxila. Many of Thai people do not know that Taxila is here in Pakistan. When they knew, they were quite amazed that what they had read before in books about Taxila, is actually a town in Pakistan. So, this is quite interesting for Thai people not only because of the Buddhism that flourished in this area by those times, but also its historical background.
So, those who want to educate their wisdom, they have to come here. Now the Thai people are realising more and more that this is the civilization that can be linked to Thailand. On this 70th anniversary of our relations, the Thai government through our embassy, is working on a project to prepare a container, showing the Thai and Gandhra arts together, which would be presented to Taxila museum. We have been working together with Department of Fine Arts, Thailand. This container that would be placed in Taxila museum which combines the Thai and Gandhara arts into this container.
However, the travel of the tourists has come down due to the Covid-19 situations. Currently, the government of Pakistan has put Thailand on Category-C and not allowing people from Thailand unless there is a valid reason. If this is relaxed and the Covid situation becomes normal, I hope more Thai people would be coming to visit Pakistan.
The Economic Affairs: Has Thailand also put Pakistan on the same Category-C?
H.E. Chakkrid Krachaiwong: No, people from Pakistan, including myself, can go to Thailand of they have visa. Upon arrival in Thailand, they will have to quarantine and pass through the procedure adopted to handle the Covid situations. The visa procedure is quite normal of every type, business, visit, student etc.
The Economic Affairs: Excellency, the world is once again in panic to deal with the fifth wave of Coronavirus due to Omicron variant. Do you believe both Pakistan and Thailand can cooperate each other and share each other’s experiences to cope with the new wave Covid-19 together…?
H.E. Chakkrid Krachaiwong: Of course, not because of this variant, but we have the common enemy and in this battle, we understand that we have to deal with collectively and share our experiences. In this battle, you cannot leave anyone behind. We have to go together and we have been working together since the beginning of the pandemic because there are some Thai people who are here and some Pakistanis who are in Thailand. We are working closely with Pakistani Embassy in Bangkok and also our embassy here. We have been able to manage flights to send Thai people from here and the Pakistanis from Thailand to come here during the pandemic.
I would also like to share here that not only the cultural exchanges and the history that we share together, we both also have good trade ties. Our trade has been going year by year and before the Covid time, our trade has been reached to US$ 1.6 billion in 2018-19. But as far as the latest information, from January 2021 to October 2021, the bilateral trade stood at US$ 1.5 billion. So, if the rate is following this way, we might be able to see a much high record of the two-way trade. It is important to note that despite the pandemic, we have been able to keep the trade on its right track.
The Economic Affairs: What are the key areas of the two-way trade?
H.E. Chakkrid Krachaiwong: The major Thai exports to Pakistan are vehicle parts, some chemicals, rubber/plastic used in making footballs while we import from Pakistan a lot in terms of fisheries, animals and we are also working on Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the two countries. The good news is that we have completed 12 out of 13 chapters of the FTA and we are working with the Pakistani side to finish the last remaining part of the FTA. Now we are waiting for Pakistani side to respond to our request for the next meeting to continue the talks towards the finalization of the FTA. Our ministry of commerce has been asking the Pakistani side for the meeting. If it happens, I think the FTA can be concluded.
The Economic Affairs: What are the agreed points of the FTA?
H.E. Chakkrid Krachaiwong: Since the negotiations are still ongoing and it is not appropriate to share it. So, we have to wait until the talks conclude. When it is completed, it would be an opportunity for the business community and both sides would be benefited from it. We have very good quality products. Not only the Thai products, but also we can export the raw materials that can be used here in Pakistan. We also have some investment here, not very much, but the important is that one of the famous Thai companies – which has the highest volume of investment in Thailand and China, and they come here and it is based in Lahore. They are also seeking to expand their investment also to Islamabad and it is a good sign. Another company, Thai Union, is also working in Pakistan.
The Economic Affairs: What are other areas, where Thai companies are working in Pakistan and what are the others areas where Thai companies can invest in?
H.E. Chakkrid Krachaiwong: Currently, these two companies are still working in Pakistan. I there is possibility of helping the akwa animal products, and also food products, because I love Thai mangoes, but when I came here and tasted Pakistani mangoes, I was quite amazed to see such delicious mangoes. And also the fishery products that we import from Karachi, but it would be very important if the food preservations techniques are applied on the fishery products. It might be a possibility to preserve them in canes which might be a good idea.
The Economic Affairs: Has any Thai company shown any interest in automobile sector and the rubber industry in Pakistani?
H.E. Chakkrid Krachaiwong: Not yet.
The Economic Affairs: Any future plan in automobile sector? Because, Pakistan has opened the automobile sector for foreign investors…?
H.E. Chakkrid Krachaiwong: I haven’t heard about the plan. But, what important is that, Pakistan’s potential must be explored. I think Pakistan’s embassy in Bangkok is working very hard towards that end. Even myself, as I am the ambassador of Thailand and it is my wish that somewhat promote Pakistan to become known in Thailand as well. For this, tourism is the right way and I think it is the good policy of Pakistani government to open up its tourism for the people to come in. with that trade and investment would also come more and it would also pave the way for more companies to come and invest in Pakistan.
The Economic Affairs: I have heard that some Thai companies have express willingness to come and to establish tourist sites in Pakistan. What would you like to say on that?
H.E. Chakkrid Krachaiwong: Well, I also have heard about them. They are some of the travel agents who are trying to promote the tourism from Thailand to here. I think more and more people will be willing to come to Pakistan once the covid situation gets normal. I think Pakistan has a great potential in tourism industry and there is a room for investment in this sector.
The Economic Affairs: Is there also a window of opportunity for more Pakistani products to go to the Thai market?
H.E. Chakkrid Krachaiwong: As I mentioned, Pakistani fishery products are quite good, but there is a need to lay focus on preservation of these foods. Warrix Sports, a well-known Thai company, is also in touch with Pakistani companies here for a joint venture on the sports products, such as footballs and other products related to sports.
The Economic Affairs: Would you please also like to shed some light on the third Joint Economic Commission.
H.E. Chakkrid Krachaiwong: We have two kinds of mechanism – the political consultations and economic consultation. We are looking into all the issues of common interest under these mechanisms. We are also providing technical cooperation to Pakistan, including through offering scholarships to Pakistani students through Higher Education Commission (HEC). There are a high number of Pakistani students who are currently studying in Thai education institutions. While we also have Thai Muslim students, studying in seminaries as well as in the Islamic International University. We have quite a family like relations with these students and the embassy is helping them. These Thai Muslims coming into Pakistan are benefiting us at home, as they are not only taking the religious education, but also learning English and Arabic languages as well as other technical courses here. Many of them are also helping us in back in our hospitals.
The Economic Affairs: Do you believe that the special economic zones (SEZs) under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CEPC) would also be an opportunity for Thai companies to invest in?
H.E. Chakkrid Krachaiwong: Of course, the Thai companies will be beneficial. But I think they have to come and study the ground situations themselves. At the embassy, we are sending information back to Thailand and also our Economic Affairs Ministry about the opportunities here. I think, Pakistan Embassy in Bangkok is also engaged in promoting in Thailand the investment opportunities in Pakistan.
The Economic Affairs: Any high-profile visit during the near future from Thailand?
H.E. Chakkrid Krachaiwong: Not yet, because of the Covid situations.
The Economic Affairs: What do you like in Pakistani foods?
H.E. Chakkrid Krachaiwong: Well, I like Biryani very much. I also like fish and the Pakistani mangoes which are very delicious.