Ambassador Jakkrit Srivali told the reception in the Museum of Military History that farther afield, the same date, December 5, has been designated World Soil Day by the United Nations, in honour of His Late Majesty’s contributions to soil science and research. Long before sustainability gained global currency, King Bhumibol had been developing ways to improve the lives of the rural poor without sacrificing the environment.

His tireless good works on behalf of his people were in keeping with an ancient tradition, Ambassador Srivali said. For over 700 years, the monarchy had been at the heart of the Thai nation. Through periods of calm and turbulence, the monarchy had remained a steady, comforting presence and a pillar of stability.

"This is important in a country as dynamic as Thailand," Ambassador Srivali said. "Our economy has grown rapidly over the past several decades. Today, a favourable current account surplus, high foreign exchange reserves and continued low unemployment have placed Thailand in a strong economic position."

"Robust growth in public and private sector investment, exports and tourism remain key drivers of the economy."

"But key to further gains will be connectivity. Plans are under way to make the most of our strategic location as the gateway to the high-potential Mekong subregion. Over the next five years, Thailand will invest USD 50 billion to upgrade logistical infrastructure to connect our Eastern Economic Corridor with mainland Southeast Asia and beyond."

The ambassador said Thailand is also seeking to restructure its economy with an eye on the future. The government’s Thailand 4.0 policy promotes 11 targetted industries such as agriculture and biotechnology, food processing, comprehensive health-care, intelligent electronics and digital industry, he said.

"These projects and others present vast opportunities. If you are looking to invest in fast-growing Southeast Asia, we invite you to look at Thailand."

"Next year, Thailand’s dynamic profile will likely be enhanced even further with two developments."

"First is our chairmanship of ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The theme ‘Advancing Partnership for Sustainability’ is in line with the priority we give to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and Thailand’s efforts, which have been guided by His Late Majesty’s Sufficiency Economy Philosophy. It is also consistent with the seriousness with which we have tackled such issues as combating wildlife trafficking and IUU (illegal unreported and unregulated) fishing.

"The second major development is the general election set for February 24. Several new political parties have been formed to contest the election, and restrictions on campaigning are expected to be lifted this week."

"On the bilateral front, our relations with Hungary remain on a solid footing. Bilateral trade volume in the first three-quarters of 2018 increased 13.55 per cent. Exports of Hungarian poultry products to Thailand have resumed after the end of the bird flu outbreak in Hungary. Tourism numbers on both sides have been on the rise. In education, a few months ago the first batch of Thai exchange students arrived under the Stipendium Hungaricum grant program."

"At the political level, Thailand and Hungary signed an Extradition Treaty on the sidelines of the UN in September.We were also able to finalise an agreement that would allow cooperation to continue between a Thai Buddhist university and a Buddhist college in Budapest, as required by the Law on Higher Education."

"Furthermore, we held a bilateral political consultation at the senior officials level in Budapest. We look forward to hosting the Joint Committee for Economic Cooperation in Bangkok next year at the earliest opportunity," Ambassador Srivali said.

The guests drank a toast to the health and happiness of His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn and the President of Hungary, as well as to the everlasting friendship between the two countries and peoples.

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