Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen graced the opening of the first Bhutan-Thailand festival at the Bhutan Youth Development Fund’s (YDF) multipurpose hall in Thimphu yesterday.

Thai delegation from the Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Tourism and Sports and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, led by the Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand, Tanasak Patimapragorn, is in the country to attend the festival.

The festival, held to celebrate friendship and goodwill between the two kingdoms with common spiritual heritage and shared cultural and traditional values, will be open for public until June 11.

The festival will hold exhibitions showcasing food fair of traditional cuisines, exhibition of silk products and agro products from the two countries, cultural performances, and Thai boxing.

There will also be a free medical check-up by doctors from Thailand at the festival venue. The medical check-ups will be conducted for general, cancer, cardio, ENT (ear, nose and throat), dental and medical counselling.

Foreign minister Damcho Dorji said the festival is a testimony to the excellent bilateral relations the two kingdoms continue to enjoy. “The relations between our two kingdoms is marked with tremendous goodwill, affection and understanding. Our two kingdoms share common spiritual heritage, shared reverence to the institution of monarchy, close people to people contact, and a proud legacy of sovereign independence.”

Despite varying geography, population and economy, the two kingdoms share similar hopes, aspirations as well as challenges, Lyonpo added. “It is, therefore, only natural that Thailand and Bhutan share excellent relations at bilateral and as well at multilateral fore.”

Lyonpo said that the growing cognizance of the complementarity between sufficiency economy philosophy of Thailand and Gross National Happiness philosophy of Bhutan has added to understanding the true basis of the strong and enduring bilateral relations.

Recently, a team of officials from Royal Civil Service Commission, Gross National Happiness Commission, Centre for Bhutan Studies and GNH Research and media organisations participated in a study tour to understand Thailand’s best practices in implementing sufficiency economy philosophy.  “We are hopeful that this initiative would help in further understanding of the complementary nature of the two development philosophies,” Lyonpo said.

Lyonpo added that Bhutan continues to receive assistance in Human Resource Development under the auspices of Thai International Cooperation Agency and scholarships from various universities in Thailand. “The short and long term training opportunities for Bhutanese officials are of immense benefit to building the technical capacity and also in achieving vision of building the required human asset.”

Tanasak Patimapragorn said the festival showcases the diversity and depth of the relation between the two countries. “I hope that the visitors to the festival will be entertained, informed and inspired by displays and performances.” He added that for those who had never visited Thailand, the festival would spark the interest and prompt them to find out more about the country.  “The festival will be a stepping-stone towards a more inclusive and comprehensive fest in Thai-Bhutanese relations.”

Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was also signed between Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB), and Ministry of Tourism and Sports of Thailand and Bhutan Olympic Committee yesterday.

Lyonpo said that the MoU in the field of tourism would strengthen the minutes of the working group meeting held in 2011 in Bhutan through this MoU for the joint marketing under broad frameworks of the ‘Two Kingdoms and One Destination’ nomenclature.

TCB’s spokesperson, Damcho Rinzin, said that with the signing of the MoU by the TCB director, Chhimmy Pem, and TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn, the minutes of the meeting is formalised. The agreement will help explore joint business opportunities, collaborate in marketing and promotion of tourism in both the countries, community based tourism like sharing experiences and technical expertise, and industry partnership, among others.

“We will work on strategies to have international tourist visiting Thailand to visit Bhutan and similarly tourists visiting Bhutan to also visit Thailand which is promoting two kingdoms and one destination,” Damcho Rinzin said.

The MoU signed by Thailand’s minister of tourism and sports, Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, and BOC’s secretary general, Sonam Karma Tshering, is expected to strengthen, promote and develop mutual cooperation in the fields of sports on the basis of equality and mutual benefits.

The agreement will encourage and promote exchange of programmes, experiences, skills, techniques, information and knowledge in training and competition of young athletes; collaboration in the area of sports research and development; and interaction through meetings, conferences and symposia, among others.

Bhutan and Thailand established formal diplomatic relations in 1989.

Dechen Tshomo