Thailand is keen on boosting ties with the Middle East, as more than half a million people from the region visit the southeast Asian country annually, and that number is on the rise, according to the deputy director general of the Department of Information at the Thai ministry of foreign affairs.
During a meeting with media representatives from the Middle East, Deputy Director General Natapanu Nopakun said that Thailand is interested in expanding partnerships and cooperation with the Middle East through its membership in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC), which is designed to strengthen mutual cooperation.
“We have signed the agreement [the TAC] with Bahrain and we are keen on reaching out to other Arab states to sign the treaty,” Nopakun added.
The TAC contains principles to promote and sustain regional peace and stability, and was originally signed at the first ASEAN Summit in 1976, the official said.
It is open to all countries that have expressed their intent to enhance their relations with ASEAN.
The Thai official noted that cooperation between Thailand and the Arab world is “intensifying and increasing in several arenas”, especially in fields of tourism and medical tourism.
Around 40 million tourists visit Thailand annually, of whom more than 500,000 come from the Arab countries, according to the official. Egyptians, Kuwaitis and Emiratis top the list of Arab visitors to Thailand.
The tourism sector in Thailand channels around $63 billion annually, accounting for 17 per cent to the country’s gross domestic product.
Thailand’s Chiang Mai was listed as one of the only two Asian cities in Monocle Magazine’s “25 Best Small Cities in the World”, offering both viable business opportunities and a balanced environment.
The official said the country aims to transform its economy to be innovation-based, adding that from July to September of 2019, the country attracted $5.2 billion in foreign direct investments.
Thailand ranked 21st in the World Bank’s 2020 Ease of Doing Business report.