In a gesture of extraordinary camaraderie and hospitality, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay drove Thai Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha (Retd) from Thimphu to Paro as the latter returned to Thailand after the two-day visit.

Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay broke formal protocol as he ushered the Prime Minister and his wife up the stairway to the door of the airplane.

The Thai Prime Minister responded in equal measure – hugging Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay twice before boarding the aircraft. Bhutanese officials including cabinet ministers, and members from the foreign embassies in the country waved and waited until the plane took off.

Soon after the foreign ministry issued a joint press release wherein the Thai Prime Minister expressed his appreciation for ‘the warm welcome and gracious hospitality extended to him and the members of his delegation during the visit.’

He also thanked for the successful visit of Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn to Bhutan in 2016 for the agriculture for school lunch project.

Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay thanked the Thai government for the courtesies extended to His Majesty The King, Her Majesty The Queen, and His Royal Highness the Gyalsey during their Majesties’ visit to attend the Royal Cremation of His Majesty the Late King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand in October 2017.

Lyonchhen said that Bhutanese were deeply saddened by the passing of His Late King Bhumibol Adulyadej and that Their Majesties’ visit to pay respects and attend the Royal Cremation Ceremony reflects the mutual respect and close relations between the two Royal Families.

Their Majesties also granted an audience to the Prime Minister and his wife, Associate Professor Naraporn Chan-o-cha and hosted a banquet lunch for the visiting delegation.


An ENT centre by next year

Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay welcomed Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha’s proposal to support the implementation of the Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat (EENT) care service project. The project, which also marks the 30th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries, includes establishing an EENT centre in Bhutan to treat patients and train Bhutanese health professionals.


Other milestones

The two leaders emphasised the importance of working together in the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals through sharing of best practices and experiences based on their respective and complementary development philosophies of Gross National Happiness (GNH) and Sufficiency Economy Philosophy (SEP) of His Majesty the Late King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said that both sides could discuss a community development model based on the application of the GNH and SEP towards the realisation of the SDGs.

Thai Prime Minister also agreed that Thailand would provide more opportunities for human resources development for Bhutanese, including Friends from Thailand Programme. Thailand has been providing support and assistance in priority areas of socio-economic development such as engineering, economics, public health, education, management, and agriculture.

The two prime ministers held wide-ranging discussions on bilateral relations as well as cooperation in the regional and international fora such as United Nations, BIMSTEC, and Asian Cooperation Dialogue. The two leaders also recognised the need to strengthen cooperation in science, technology, and combating transnational crimes.

The two leaders agreed to work together through the annual bilateral consultations, the joint trade committee, and the joint agriculture-working group to promote trade and economic cooperation.

The prime ministers also recognised Bhutan’s construction and hospitality sectors as potential areas for Thai investment. Investors from Thailand are already investing in the hotel industry.

The two countries signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in 2017 to promote tourism. The leaders encouraged the authorities concerned to work together on tourism promotion under the theme “two kingdoms, one destination” through joint marketing, package tours, and promotion of Buddhist tourism.

The two sides also agreed to finalise pending MoUs to enhance connectivity between the two countries to promote trade, tourism, trade, and people-to-people contact on a mutually agreed time.

The Prime Minister also visited One Gewog One Product outlet in Thimphu. The development project, between Queen’s Project office of Bhutan and Thailand International Cooperation Agency, is a replica of One Tambon One Product of Thailand, has benefitted 400 families in 80 gewogs.

The delegation also offered prayers and butter lamp at the National Memorial choeten.

The visit took place in the tradition of regular exchange of high-level visits between the two countries.

“The visit has greatly contributed to further strengthening the bilateral relations between the two Kingdoms bound by deep reverence to the institution of monarchy as well as shared common cultural and spiritual heritage,” the joint press release stated.

Tshering Palden