President Chirac makes first visit to Thailand

15th February 2006, Comments 0 comments

BANGKOK, Feb 15, 2006 (AFP) - France considers Thailand a "bridge" to build closer economic and democratic links in the region, Thailand said Wednesday ahead of French President Jacques Chirac's first visit to the kingdom.

BANGKOK, Feb 15, 2006 (AFP) - France considers Thailand a "bridge" to build closer economic and democratic links in the region, Thailand said Wednesday ahead of French President Jacques Chirac's first visit to the kingdom.

"We're on the same democratic track and France gives a lot of importance to Thailand and especially thinks Thailand can be a good bridge to help our neighbouring countries to go on the right track," said the foreign ministry's director general of European affairs, Kulkumut Singhara Na Ayudhaya.

"We attach a great importance to this visit because we have a very long history of diplomatic relations," he said.

The countries signed an agreement in 2004 to boost bilateral ties.

But the ministry would not confirm whether France would sign a regional cooperation treaty as mooted in Thai newspapers.

The Nation newspaper reported Wednesday that Chirac would announce France's intention to join the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) treaty of amity and cooperation which bans violence to settle disputes in the region.

France would join other non-ASEAN members Australia, India, China, Japan and New Zealand as signatories to the treaty.

Kulkumut said he was unaware of the news report, "but Thailand and ASEAN countries were still open" to other countries joining.

Thailand is a founding member of the 10-nation ASEAN, which also groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam.

Chirac is expected to sign 11 official documents on Saturday including ones on defence, establishing an office of the French development agency and access for Thai goods to the Carrefour retail giant.

He will be accompanied by Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie, Economy Minister Thierry Breton, Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy, External Trade Minister Christine Lagarde and Tourism Minister Leon Bertrand.

About 30 French business leaders are also visiting and will attend an economic summit on Saturday aimed at reinforcing French companies' presence in Thailand, with around 400 new enterprises slated to open in the coming months.

Bilateral trade between the two countries grew 37.0 percent year-on-year to 2.8 billion euros (3.3 billion dollars) in 2005.

French businesses are keen to bid for contracts in Thailand's massive 44-billion-dollar public works programme -- especially for mass transit, water and defence, diplomats said.

The president is the first world leader to visit Thailand during year-long celebrations marking 60 years since revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej ascended the throne in 1946.

The king and Queen Sirikit, who along with their children are fluent French speakers, will receive Chirac and his wife Bernadette at a Bangkok airport.

A former mayor of Paris, Chirac will receive the key to the city of Bangkok from its Governor Apirak Kosayadhin, and attend a state banquet with the monarchy on Friday in the capital's Grand Palace.

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who made two official visits to France in 2003 and 2005, will hold talks with Chirac on Saturday.

The French president is scheduled to go on to India on Sunday, where he will stay until the following evening. He last made an official visit to India in 1998.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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