90 Years of Swiss-Thai Friendship

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The 90th anniversary of the bilateral diplomatic relations gives me the opportunity to have a quick glance at the rich history of our two countries’ partnership.

First connections between Switzerland and Thailand were set up in the 16th-17th Century when European missionaries first arrived in the Kingdom of Siam. It later on further expanded in all areas especially in bilateral trade.

From the end of the 19th century, Switzerland’s relations with the Kingdom of Siam intensified. Swiss entrepreneurs traded there in rice, tin, tungsten, textiles and condensed milk or worked as bank and insurance employees. Companies such as Berli and Jucker (from 1924 Berli Jucker & Co., since 1993 Berli Jucker Public Company Limited) settled in Bangkok and are still strongly present today. Since the early days, Swiss people showed interest in Thailand from the touristic point of view as well: the Diethelm company (since 1956 Diethelm Travel Group) opened a branch in Bangkok in 1906. With the expansion of the tourist offer, this branch became the main pillar of the Swiss presence in Bangkok and in Thailand.

Photo Courtesy of Berli Jucker Public Company Limited (BJC)

The official relations began when King Chulalongkorn went to Europe and visited Switzerland in 1897 and 1907. After the royal visits, Switzerland and the Kingdom of Siam started to negotiate the Treaty of Friendship and Commerce. The draft Treaty was concluded on 28 May 1931 and was officially signed on 2 October 1931. On 16 December the same year, the ratified documents were officially exchanged in Bern and the Treaty entered formally into force for both sides. In 2021, we proudly celebrate the 90th anniversary of these 3 events.

As a consequence, in 1932, a Consulate of Switzerland was opened in Bangkok and the representation was converted into an Embassy in 1949. Switzerland also opened consulates in Chiang Mai and Phuket. Thailand opened an embassy in Bern in 1948 and established consulates in Basel, Geneva and Zurich.

Since then, the relations and friendship between our two countries have grown and developed continuously e.g. with the conclusion of numerous bilateral agreements, cooperation in different fields and numerous high level meetings. We also often work together in the framework of multilateral organizations as well as through the Sectoral Dialogue Partnership of Switzerland with ASEAN (since 2016). At a more personal and private level, thousands of Swiss and Thai citizens contribute to the close link between our two countries and people by creating families and building their lives in each other’s country.

These manifold pillars at different levels and in many areas enrich today our friendship and we all are committed to carefully maintain our close exchange and cooperation. May these relations remain excellent and continue to develop and further diversify far beyond the next 90 years!

Raphael A. Nägeli,
Assistant State Secretary and Head of the Asia Pacific Division,

Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs

Ambassador Raphael A. Nägeli has been Assistant Secretary and Head of the Asia Pacific Division of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs since 2018 He is in charge of Switzerland’s relations with countries in South Asia, South-East Asia and Oceania, and East Asia. Prior to this post, he served in several offices both in Bern and abroad, including Swiss Embassies in Sarajevo and Budapest, Head of the Task Force for Swiss OSCE Chairmanship, and Deputy Head of Human Security Division.

Ambassador Naegeli speaks German, French, English, Italian, Russian and Serbian/Croatian. He is married and has two children.


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